Memorial Day: Honoring the fallen


Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the US.

Over the weekend, flags fly at half-mast, graves are decorated with flowers and family members pay their respects at national cemeteries. Ceremonies honoring fallen soldiers – of all wars and conflicts – take place across the country.

In many places, Boy Scout Troops – as part of their commitment to community service – place flags on each soldier’s grave.

See below two newspaper articles  on the holiday, from the New York Sun (May 31, 1872) and the Hawaiian Gazette (May 30, 1911). Click on each article image to see the original page from the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site, and learn more.

The day was first observed in 1865 to remember fallen Civil War soldiers; it was then called Decoration Day.

The Hawaiian Gazette reported on Decoration Day (Credit: Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Hawaiian Gazette)

On May 5, 1868, General John Logan officially proclaimed Decoration Day. A few weeks later, on May 30, flowers were placed on the graves of Union soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

From 1869 through 1911, Northern states begin to adopt the holiday, which featured parades, speeches and events honoring the fallen Civil War soldiers.

An 1872 article about the holiday (Credit: Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New York Sun, 1872)

From May 1919 through 1920, the day also began to commemorate those who died in World War I, as well as the Civil War.

Renamed Memorial Day, it was later extended to honor all American military personnel who died in all wars.

Today, the long holiday weekend is celebrated with picnics and barbecues, in addition to ceremonies at cemeteries and parades in many communities.

Are you remembering your relatives or ancestors – who served in the military – today?

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