We all know that Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. And we know that this year, Memorial Day is today, May 31. But how many of us know the history of Memorial Day?
It all began in May 1868 when General John A. Logan, a leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans called for a nationwide day of remembrance. He called this day “Decoration Day,” which was held on May 30 and entailed decorating the graves of soldiers who died in defense of their country. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War.
Decoration Day later became known as Memorial Day as the holiday evolved to honor American military personnel who died in all wars, including World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date originally selected for the first Decoration Day. However, in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to allow for a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971.
Today, we praise the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the name of our country. Their selfless devotion, outstanding courage and honor should inspire us to make their sacrifice meaningful.