MEMORIAL DAY BEGAN AS A RESPONSE TO THE CIVIL WAR -Although several towns throughout the country held commemorative ceremonies since the Civil War, it was Waterloo Village, New York that won congressional as the "Birthplace of Memorial Day" for it's an annual community service day on May 5, 1866. MAJOR GENERAL JOHN A. LOGAN MADE THE DAY OFFICIAL -On May 5, 1868, General Logan, the speaker at the Carbondale gathering, who also was the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, issued General Orders No. 11, which recognized May 30, 1868 "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion." MEMORIAL DAY WAS ORIGINALLY KNOWN AS DECORATION DAY -The holiday was long known as Decoration Day for the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but it wasn't until 1967 that federal law recognized "Memorial Day" the official name. MEMORIAL DAY IS MORE OF A FRANCHISE THAN A NATIONAL HOLIDAY - Calling Memorial Day a "National Holiday" is a bit of a misnomer. While there are 10 Federal Holidays created by Congress, including Memorial Day, they only apply to Federal Employees and the District of Columbia. Federal Memrial Day, established in 1888, allowed Cival War veterans to honor their fallen comrades without being docked a day's pay. For the rest of us, our holidays were enacted state by state. In 1971, the Monday Holiday Law shifted Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May. VIETNAM VETS GO WHOLE HOG - On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C. for the first Rolling Thunder rally to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action or prisoners of war. By 2002, the ride had swelled to 300,000 bikers, many of them veterans. There may have been a half-million participants in 2005, in what organizers bluntly call "a demonstration—not a parade." MEMORIAL DAY HAS ITS CUSTOMS - It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset; Taps, the 24-note bugle call, is played at all military funerals and memorial services; The World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrea, inspired the Memorial Day custom of wearing red artificial poppies. THERE STILL IS A GRAY MEMORIAL DAY - Several Southern states continue to set aside a day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day. No question that Memorial Day is a solemn event. Still, don't feel too guilty about doing something frivolous (like having a barbecue) over the weekend. After all, you weren't the one who instituted the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911. Gravitas returned on May 30, 1922, when the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated by then Supreme Court Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft, before a crowd of 50,000 people. In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. "is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday." EACH MEMORIAL DAY IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT -
Enjoy your Memorial Day Holiday and Celebrate, Honor and Remember those Military Men and Women who have or are serving for your freedom!