Memorial Day is a federally recognized holiday in the U.S. that honors the valiant men and women who died in service to the United States of America. It is a day on which as a nation, the US stops to recognize those brave men and women who have lost their lives in service to their country and is the primary distinction from Veterans Day. We now observe Memorial Day the last Monday in May and it informally marks the beginning of summer.
The tradition of honoring fallen soldiers has roots that date to Ancient Greece and Rome. Moreover, the practice of decorating the tombstones of soldiers started before the American Civil War. However, it was in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, that a call for a nationwide and annual observance occurred. General John A. Logan issued a decree known as Decoration Day to honor all soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War, America’s deadliest war that claimed the lives of 620,00 thousand soldiers.
Gradually Decoration Day morphed into Memorial Day. The observance expanded to include fallen military personnel beyond the American Civil War, particularly after both World Wars. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May creating a three-day weekend. Some critics argue this act devalues the significance of the day and champion restoring the day back to its original May 30 observance.
Across the United States, Americans honor our fallen soldiers in numerous ways. Many Americans visit national cemeteries, participate in local parades, host barbeques with loved ones, volunteer, and display the stars and stripes. However one chooses to observe this day, we do it with their sacrifice in mind.
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