With Memorial Day coming up, it’s important to remember the men and women who died serving in the U.S. military that allow us to sleep soundly at night. Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday began as a way to honor fallen soldiers after the Civil War. Citizens in towns and cities across America independently began holding tributes in the 1860s. They decorated gravesites with flowers and flags, and recited prayers.
General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, first called for a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30th, 1868. The date for this Decoration Day was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. This first major celebration was held at Arlington National Cemetery, where 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were buried.
Annual events were held across various Northern states, while Southern states had their traditions on different days of the year. When World War I came around, the holiday evolved to honor soldiers lost in all wars.
While its unclear where this tradition originated, the federal government designated Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966. In 1968, 100 years after John Logan’s original declaration of remembrance, Congress established the last Monday in May as Memorial Day to create a three-day weekend for federal employees.
Today, Memorial Day is a time to stop and reflect - to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us can live safely and comfortably.