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Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is more than just a great excuse for a cookout and a day off from work. The holiday was created to honor the many American men and women who died in military service. This focus on those who made the ultimate sacrifice sets it apart from Veterans’ Day, which honors all military veterans, living and dead.

The day was originally set aside to remember Union soldiers who died during the Civil War, but following World War I, its scope expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. At the end of the Civil War, many U.S. cities held their own memorial observations for their hometown heroes. The idea for a specific holiday came in 1868 from Illinois Senator John Alexander Logan, a former Union general and keynote speaker at one early observation. Logan used his position as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Union soldiers, to issue a proclamation for a national “Decoration Day” to be observed on May 30 of that year by decorating the tombs of Union soldiers.

Beginning about 15 years later, an alternate name, “Memorial Day,” started cropping up from to time to time. The new name became more common after World War II, and in 1967 was declared the official name by Federal law. Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 until 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, moving four holidays — Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day — to designated Mondays in order to create the ever-popular three-day weekends. (Veterans Day eventually reverted to its traditional Nov. 11 date, which mirrors Armistice Day celebrations in several European nations).

9 Responses

  1. Also remember the dedicated service DOGS who have made sacrifices alongside their people!
    Many service men and women owe their lives to their service animals. Let’s not forget.

    by Mavis on May 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm

  2. Our town always starts the weekend off with a concert called “Salute” on Friday evening on the courthouse grounds. They recognize and thank all branches of the military. Good times.

    by lori london on May 23, 2014 at 11:05 am

  3. This holiday is for our military service men and women who have and still do serve our country. They are to be respected and thanked for all they do. I remember as a child our brownie troop in Portsmouth Nh would always attend the Memorial service down by the water and across the way was the Naval Shipyard We would commentate the service of soldiers by tossing flowers into the ocean. The Brownie troop would always use Purple Lilacs which is the NH state flower.

    by Cyndi on May 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

  4. This weekend is to honor and remember our fallen Military Men and Women…..We should take a minute everyday to think of the Men and Women who are serving now…..and every chance that comes along, Thank The Marine, The Soldier, As well As the ones serving in the Navy and Air Force. I believe for these great men and women, past and present, one day, one weekend, is not great enough for the unselfish bravery each and everyone holds.
    My Point is, this isn’t the time and place to express our feelings about unpaid holidays, Presidents day/MLKjr day, trust me I completely agree…But this weekend is for our fallen and the ones who stood next to them………
    God Bless them all, and Juan, God Bless and Thank You…..As well as to, my Papaw, my Brothers and my Husband
    Have a safe and wonderful weekend

    by Wendy on May 29, 2010 at 9:26 am

  5. We should also take a minute to think about the men and women who are now serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    by Barbara on May 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

  6. Folks, this weekend take time and effort to thank the veterans who served our country in the military. Shake there hand or say thanks for serving and take a moment of reflection of the ones who passed/died defending our freedoms,rights and our daily way of life.

    by Give Thanks on May 26, 2010 at 12:39 pm

  7. I to served my country during the vietman war, although I did now see battle I still had to serve my country as all young men should. It was an honor and if I had to do it again, I would. God Bless this great nation of ours.

    by Juan on May 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

  8. I wish congress would not enjoy helping us so much. I perfer to keep the holidays as they were intended, not so much as to please everyone. Keep the orginal days. Most of us do not get paid holidays anyways.

    by Jim on May 26, 2010 at 10:58 am

  9. Umm Presidents day? I remember in the 70’s celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday and Washing’s Birthday in February. They were not combined into Presidents’ Day until MLKjr Day appeared in January.

    by Jennifer on May 26, 2010 at 10:07 am

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