Decoration Day

In 1868, when Major John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day be observed on May 30, he ordered his posts to decorate graves with the choicest flowers of springtime. He further urged: We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. . . Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic. The first Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, as it is known today, was originally established to honor soldiers who had died during the Civil War. More lives were lost during the conflict than any other in U.S. history, leading to the establishment of the first National cemeteries. When the United States found itself involved in World War I, the holiday grew to include all military personnel who died while fighting in wars. Although Americans in a number of small towns across the nation held special springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers in the late 1860s, Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, declared Waterloo, NY the official birthplace of Memorial Day. The first large observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery. There were 5,000 in attendance, similar to celebrations today. They placed small flags on the the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, making the last Monday in May the official Memorial Day holiday. The change took effect in 1971, allowing Federal employees a three day weekend. The Act also declared it a Federal holiday. It wasn’t until recent years that families made it customary on Memorial Day to decorate the graves of loved ones who have died. Happy Decoration Day, everyone, from the staff at Truckstar Collison Center.

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