Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer, that three-day weekend that marks when it’s fashionably acceptable to wear white and when families take road trips. But Memorial Day is actually one of the most somber days of the year, a time for Americans to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.
Often confused with Veterans Day – more on that later – Memorial Day was first observed in a little town called Waterloo, New York, in 1866. Although not yet officially named Memorial Day, businesses closed shops so everyone could decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and American flags. Similar ceremonies took place throughout the nation. Later, Gen. John A. Logan, proclaimed May 30 as the official day for decorating soldiers’ graves. He named it Decoration Day.
The first official Decoration Day occurred in 1868, when Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and other Washington officials presided over a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers, and children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] walked through the cemetery, scattering flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
- The History Channel documents Memorial Day
- More on Memorial Day
- 10 things to remember about Memorial Day
By the turn of the century, the observance was renamed Memorial Day. Today, we observe Memorial Day on the last Monday of the month of May with a full-honor wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a program hosted by the Defense Department in Arlington Memorial Amphitheater.
Why the confusion with Veterans Day?
People think they’re honoring U.S. military for service and sacrifice for both Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The difference, though, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, is “Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime.”
At MRBOXonline, we appreciate and honor our military, and the sacrifices they and their families make to keep our country safe. This Memorial Day, we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to our country.