Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Remembering Those Who Served

Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May after Congress declared it a national holiday in 1971. It is often thought to be the start of the summer season in the United States.

The holiday originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War, and it was later extended to honor all Americans who have died while in military service. It was General John Alexander Logan who was instrumental in declaring a special day in May to be reserved to honor fallen Union soldiers who died during the Civil War (1861-1865). However, it was not until the 1880s that the term Memorial Day was assigned. And it was not until 1967 that the holiday was legally recognized as Memorial Day.

President James A. Garfield was the first president to speak on Memorial Day (then Decoration Day) while he was a Civil War General and Republican Congressman. On May 30, 1868, he spoke at Arlington National Cemetary, saying: "“If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”

Each May, Memorial Day is the time when people visit cemeteries and memorials, and place flowers on the graves of their deceased service members as well as on the graves of their loved ones. Volunteers and cemetery personnel place flags on the graves of those who have served.

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