The gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery are graced by U.S. flags on Memorial Day weekend.
“What do we celebrate on Memorial Day?”
That was the question I was asked earlier this week by a store clerk as we were discussing the long weekend.
She thought it had something to do with soldiers but wasn’t quite sure because she knew Veterans Day is to honor those who served.
Growing up, I thought Memorial Day was a day to visit graves of family members.
When we were in Boise for the holiday my mom would take us out to the Emmett cemetery to place flowers on a number of family graves.
But neither of these is the reason we celebrate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while in the military service.
The holiday appears to have begun as a grass roots way to honor those who died in the Civil War.
These separate events grew into a movement that culminated in a proclamation in 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the influential veterans group, The Grand Army of the Republic, to have flowers placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30th every year.
After World War I, the holiday was expanded to include service members who died in any war. In 1968 Congress passed the National Holiday Act which moved the holiday to the last Monday in May to ensure a three day weekend for the Federal holiday.
Some say that by creating a 3 day holiday, Congress changed public perception of the holiday and that most people now see the long weekend as a good way to begin of summer.
What do you do to celebrate Memorial Day? If you are looking for a way to honor those who have died to guard our freedoms, Google is a good place to start Memorial Day Events.