The True Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day flags

Memorial Day has recently become more of a three-day holiday for big sales and BBQ's instead of remembering fallen soldiers and veterans. No matter how many Memorial Day ads we see, we should never forget the true meaning and history of Memorial Day.

The History of Memorial Day

There are differing accounts of when Memorial Day actually began. Some historians believe that Memorial Day started in April 1865, when a group of former slaves gathered at the site where 250 Union soldiers died in Charleston, S.C.

After the Civil War, many towns had gatherings to honor those killed after the war, so it is actually difficult to know where Memorial Day actually began.

In 1868, General John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed that May 30th would be Decoration Day, a day "designated 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."

It wasn't until after World War I that Decoration Day was widely accepted as the day to remember Americans who died while fighting in all wars and was renamed Memorial Day to be celebrated on May 30th.

A tradition that started in the late 1950s, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division place American flags on the more than 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery on the Thursday before Memorial Day. They then stand guard to make sure the flags stay in place through the weekend.

In 1971, Memorial Day was officially moved to the last Monday in May by the Uniform Holiday Bill, which was signed into law by President Johnson in 1968.

The True Meaning of Memorial Day

Unfortunately the true meaning of Memorial Day has been lost over the years. It is now advertised as a time to buy a mattress on sale, the start of summer, have a BBQ or just getting three days off from work.  

To remind Americans what the true meaning of Memorial Day is, the government passed the National Moment of Remembrance resolution in 2000. This resolution asks that all Americans take time at 3:00 pm (local time) to remember in their own way those that have fallen while serving our country.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

How You Can Observe Memorial Day

There are many ways you can honor those that have sacrificed their lives in order for us to live free today.

  • Fly your flag and if possible, fly the flag at half mast between sunrise and noon.
  • Go to the cemetery and place a flag or flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers and family members.
  • Join an observance at a local military cemetery or base.
  • You can take flowers, books or cookies to a local veteran's hospital for those injured in war.
  • You can also sponsor flower bouquets to be placed at National War Memorials in remembrance of those who have served through the Memorial Day Foundation.

 Don't feel bad or unpatriotic if you do buy a mattress on sale during Memorial Day, just remember to pay tribute to those that served and gave their lives for us to be able to live in our free country.

Copyright © 2014-2015 Sam Montana

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