Memorial Day is celebrated the last Monday of May each year, decided by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971. Many believe that in making Memorial Day part of an observed 3-day weekend many have been distracted away from the meaning of this day. Originally created to recognize the sacrifice made by those killed during the fighting of the Civil War it has morphed into a day for Barbeques and Family and often missing the thankfulness for the sacrifices made by those heroes killed in action.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
Since the late 50’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
There is an organization that is doing all they can to preserve and restore the traditions of Memorial Day, urging American’s to reach out to their Senators and Congressmen for assistance. Please visit one of these organizations and see how you can help.
Other organizations whose mission is to honor our fallen and their families are below, please visit and donate either your time or monetarily to ensure the respect and assistance is given to these individuals and families.
Got Your Back Network
A Soldiers Child Birthday
Operation Never Forgotten
Wreaths Across America
As you sit with your family this Memorial Day weekend, whether you are traveling or home, take a moment to remember those heroes that cannot be here with theirs. The heroes that we should be silently thanking for our freedom and their families that have a consistantly vacant spot at the table. Lets remember the sacrifices of these men and women, while being grateful for the 1,343,812 service members that have died fighting for our freedoms since the United States became so in 1775.