By Marion Webber
Memorial Day is a Federal Holiday in the United States. It is an important holiday that remembers those who died for our country and serves to remind people of the costly price of war. It is a time to decorate the graves of those fallen soldiers in the Civil War. Many people visit cemeteries on that day to remember our loved ones as well. In many cemeteries, there are prayer services. In the Catholic Church, there is sometimes a Holy Mass held at the cemetery of the parish they reside in. It is a special time to remember all of the deceased. A time to remember the freedoms we take for granted by those who lost their lives to protect ours! How much we owe to these men and women!
A lot of different areas claim to be the first location where the practice began being observed — the birthplace of Memorial Day. Nothing is really known for sure. But in 1866 in New York in a town called Waterloo, a drugstore owner suggested that the town shops close on May 5 to commemorate the soldiers buried at Waterloo Cemetery who had died during the Civil War. Two years later in Waterloo, on May 5, 1868, General John Logan issued a declaration that Decoration Day should be observed nationwide. The declaration said that May 30th would be designated as a day to decorate the graves of “comrades who died in defense of their country.” According to History.com, President James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery on that day. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson and the Congress of the United States stated that Waterloo was the official birthplace of Memorial Day, and the official date of origin was May 30, 1868.
Over the years the name of the holiday was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. It was originally called Decoration Day because family members of fallen soldiers from the Civil War decorated their graves with flowers on that day. After World War 1, the holiday was expanded to remember soldiers from all American Wars. In 1971, Richard Nixon made Memorial Day a national holiday that was to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.
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Many people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. The difference between the two is that on Memorial Day we remember those who lost their lives, and on Veteran’s Day, we thank those who serve in the Military during wars and peaceful times.
On May 30th, 1868 the first service was held at Arlington National Cemetery by President Ulysses S. Grant to honor fallen soldiers. This tradition continues at Arlington Cemetery. Usually, the President of the United States will lay a wreath at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day and give a speech.
Since it is also the kick-off of the summer season, let us first be grateful to the men and women who gave their lives so we could be free to enjoy the things we do! God bless America!
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This article was originally published on May 17, 2017.