Memorial Day — Originally known as “Decoration Day,” there are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two-dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.
There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.”
While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May, 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated on May 5, 1868 when 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 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays).
FORMAL OBSERVANCE OF MEMORIAL DAY
- Wear a red poppies on Memorial day to honor those who died serving the U.S. during war.
- At 3pm local time on Memorial Day, Americans should pause for a moment of silence or listen to “Taps.”
- Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of veterans for Memorial Day.
- Visit a memorial.
- Attend a Memorial Day parade to honor fallen heroes.
* Family and friends get together for a Picnic for Memorial Day
* Memorial Day is unofficial kick-off of summer season
HOW TO OBSERVE MEMORIAL DAY
This information is from the US Memorial Day web site from their page on “How To Observe Memorial Day.”
We share some of observance guidelines so more citizens will become familiar with the proper way to observe this holiday when we remember and honor “our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice”. Please visit www.USMemorialDay.com for a wealth of information about this important day of remembrance. Memorial Day should be observed:
- By visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
- By visiting memorials.
- By flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
- By flying the ‘POW/MIA Flag’ as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
- By participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance”: at 3pm to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
- By renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
DID YOU KNOW?
- World War I ended in 1918, and only a few of its veterans are actually still alive — but fewer than 500 of them, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 75 are women.
- Frederick’s of Hollywood was founded by World War II veteran Frederick Mellinger. He started the company as a mail order business in 1946, and based his line of lingerie on what his Army buddies had told him their girlfriends would like — or maybe on what they wanted their girlfriends to like.
- The number of U.S. armed forces personnel who served in World War II between December 1, 1941, and December 31, 1946 was 16.1 million.
- Of the 16.1 million men and women who served in the World War II Armed Forces, about 3.8 million remain. They are dying at a rate of 1100 a day.
- The average length of active-duty by U.S. military personnel during World War II was 33 months.
- The proportion of U.S. military personnel who served abroad during World War II was 73%.
- The average time U.S. personnel served overseas during World War II was 16 months.
- The estimated number of women in 2002 who were World War II veterans was 210,000. These women comprised 4.4 percent of WWII vets.
- More Americans died in the Civil War than in World War II. About 600,000 soldiers and civilians, north and south, perished in the Civil War. The toll in World War II included 291,557 killed in battle and 113,842 dead from other causes. (Non-lethal wounds numbered 672,000.)
- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was first proposed by Jan Scruggs, a 29-year-old Vietnam veteran from Bowie, MD. He began a fund-raising campaign for the memorial in May 1979, using $2,800 of his own money.
- The projected national expenditure for veteran’s benefits in 2004 was $62 billion.