For many people, Memorial Day is a long weekend that provides vacation opportunities. However, Memorial Day also is about remembering those who have died in wars and others who have passed away.
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day on May 30 as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.
Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places.
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.
In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the "birthplace" of Memorial Day. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress. It was also placed on the last Monday in May rather than May 30.
In his Memorial Day proclamation, President Barack Obama said:
This Memorial Day, we express our deepest appreciation to the men and women in uniform who gave their last full measure of devotion so we might live in freedom. We cherish their memory and pray for the peace for which they laid down their lives.
Obama encouraged all Americans to unite at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to observe a National Moment of Remembrance to honor soldiers who have died.
Other ways to observe memorial day include:
- Visit your local cemetery and place flowers on the graves of family members or friends who have died in our country’s wars. Many people also put flowers on the graves of loved ones who have passed away.
- Visit memorials in your community.
- Attend the Memorial Day parade held in your community or a nearby one.
- Fly the American Flag.
- Take flowers to a nearby veterans’ hospital.
- Check out ways you can help veterans and the families of soldiers who have died.
- Teach children about the importance of working for peace in our democracy.
Copyright 2010, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist