Memorial Day comes from a tradition established following the Civil War called Decoration Day, in which veterans decorated the graves of the fallen soldiers. Here are some amazing Facts About Memorial Day!
Every every year, Americans can take a moment to reflect on those who paid the ultimate price for their country in conflicts both at home and overseas.
A few more non-sober traditions have been developed through the years, like Memorial Day Weekend being labeled as the “unofficial beginning of summer” and significant events during Memorial Day Weekend like the Indianapolis 500. But, Memorial Day itself continues to be one of the most important national celebrations in large cities and small towns across the nation.
Facts About Memorial Day
Here are some amazing facts about Memorial day for all of you to explore!
1. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day.
In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Americans across the nation were still mourning the loss of more than 600,000 men who lost their lives during the extended period of fighting. North and South veterans would decorate their fellow soldier’s graves with flowers in towns scattered across the country.
On May 5, 1868, just three years after the close of the Civil War, John Logan was a veteran of the war and the head of the Union veterans’ organization, called the Grand Army of the Republic, established Decoration Day to be recognized on May 30 as per the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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On that day, those on both sides of the conflict would be advised to plant flowers on graves of loved ones, relatives, or friends who were killed in the battle. According to the VA declares, he chose May 30 because flowers will be blooming during that period.
On May 30, 1868, the inaugural National Decoration Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery, where the Grand Army of the Republic laid flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there. According to the VA, General Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremony.
2. Decoration Day only recognized fallen soldiers from during the Civil War until World War I
Although America’s involvement during World War I sometimes takes an afterthought to World War I, the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War, it nevertheless contributed to the development of numerous American customs, such as the giving of us Veterans Day on November 11 (originally named Armistice Day) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
World War I also changed the way Decoration Day, later referred to in the future as Memorial Day, was celebrated in the U.S. After the Civil War, it was the country’s first war and the first major war fought solely on foreign territory. According to PBS, over 116,000 Americans lost their lives during World War I.
The custom of Decoration Day soon evolved from commemorating only the fallen from that Civil War to remembering all soldiers who were killed in the wars in the United States at home and overseas, as per History.com.
During the times following World War I, the custom of wearing a red flower and reading the poem In Flanders Field developed, according to History.com.
3. Memorial Day was not an official holiday until the year 1968.
In the 1960s, the concept of Decoration Day had given way to Memorial Day. Although there were many Memorial Day events and ceremonies throughout the United States, it was in no way recognized as an official national holiday. This changed after the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
The law established several American holidays observed on specific days throughout the calendar year, such as Washington’s Birthday (unofficially known as President’s Day) in February, Memorial Day in May, Labor Day in September, Columbus Day in October, and Veterans Day in November. However, Veterans Day was later changed to the initial date of November. 11.
In the 80s, Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be added to the holiday days that fell on a specific Monday.
The motivation behind the law, according to Time, was to increase the economic output through travel. The three-day weekend with the option of a holiday paid for would help families take shorter vacations and spend money. In the end, the three-day holiday and traditional events like parades and picnics contributed to the idea that Memorial Day Weekend was the official beginning of summer. Season.
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4. Memorial Day is one of the rare days that flags are ordered to fly at half-staff and then at full-staff
Even though Memorial Day has spawned many distinct traditions among groups, the holiday also has spawned many traditions in how the government observes the holiday.
Memorial Day has its distinct flag-raising etiquette. When the sun rises, those who fly an American flag must fly the flag swiftly to the entire staff and then gradually lower it down to half-staff by the Gettysburg Flag. This is done to honor those who have died on duty. The flag must be raised swiftly to the entire staff during the noon hour. This is to honor all who have been a part of the service.
Another tradition that is adored by the people that is part of Memorial Day is the President of the United States placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Over the years, presidents have gone to the tomb to pay tribute to those who died in service to their country. Alongside laying an honorary wreath and a wreath, the President or the person of his choice will also deliver an address to the theatre nearby.
A different tradition involves the National Moment of Silence. When it is three p.m. local Time on Memorial Day, Americans are requested to stop for a minute to honor America’s fallen soldiers. The tradition was made official following the passing of The National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000.
5. Civil War veterans tried to alter the date of The Indianapolis 500 to keep it off Decoration Day.
A that has been a long-running Memorial Day tradition is the Indianapolis 500, perhaps America’s most famous automobile race. However, it was not an official Memorial Day tradition.
In 1911, the organizers announced that the inaugural Indianapolis 500 would be held on May 30, the same day set by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) as Decoration Day in 1868, according to Nicholas W. Saco. The GAR was not unhappy with the race itself but that people were drinking and betting on the day designated to honor people who were Civil War dead. They started a state-wide campaign to change the date for the race changed, but the efforts did not succeed.
A GAR-backed bill introduced by Indiana State Senator Robert Moorhead sought to ban the race from taking place on May 30, Saco wrote. However, it was passed by the Indiana House and the Senate, Governor. Warren McCray vetoed the bill and allowed Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500 to be forever linked.
Then, what’s now being called what is now known as the Coca Cola 600 in NASCAR became part of it, with the Indianapolis 500 as two of the most prestigious sporting events of Memorial Day Weekend. It is regarded as one of the most significant races in America.
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6. CBS assisted in identifying an individual among the Unknown Soldiers.
“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” The inscription appears at the Tomb of the Unknowns, built within the Arlington National Cemetery to inter the remains of the first Unknown Soldier, one of the World War I fighters, on November 11, 1921. Soldiers who were not known from World War II and the Korean War were later interred inside the grave on Memorial Day 1958.
A tearful President Ronald Reagan presided over the burial of six bones of an unknown Vietnam War soldier on May 28, 1984, a.k.a. Memorial Day. After 14 years, and prompted by an investigation conducted by CBS News, the Defense Department removed the remains from the Tomb of the Unknowns for DNA tests.
The previously unknown fighter could be named Air Force pilot Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, whose aircraft went down during a flight in South Vietnam in 1972. “The CBS investigation suggested that the military review board that had changed the designation on Lt. Blassie’s remains to ‘unknown’ did so under pressure from veterans’ groups to honor a casualty from the Vietnam War,” The New York Times published on the subject in 1998.
Lieutenant Blassie was buried near his hometown in St. Louis. The crypt of his remains located at Arlington is still empty.
7. A Vietnam veteran’s rights group hosted an online motorcycle ride to pay tribute to Memorial Day in 2020.
During the Memorial Day weekend in 1988, the motorcyclists rode to Washington, D.C., for the first Rolling Thunder rally to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action and prisoners of the war. In 2002, the event had grown to 300,000 cyclists, including veterans. In 2018, the number was probably closer to half one million.
While it was said in 2019 that it would be their final Memorial Day ride, the group American Veterans ( AMVETS) continued to honor the tradition during the COVID-19 epidemic, according to WUSA9. The ride is now called Rolling to Remember; 2020’s event was quite different. Instead of thousands of riders riding through Washington, D.C., organizers asked participants to cycle 22 miles in their communities for a Virtual Memorial Day demonstration on May 24, on a Sunday. Participants could keep track of and share their journey on their REVER application.
The 22-mile distance is important as aside from raising awareness of soldiers who are missing in action and prisoners of war, AMVETS sought to raise awareness of the 22 average veterans killed each day by suicide.
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8. Memorial Day has its customs.
General Order No. 11 stipulated the following “in this observance, no form of ceremony is prescribed,” however, as Time passed, various traditions and symbols were incorporated in connection with this holiday. It is, for instance, commonplace to observe Memorial Day, fly the flag at half-staff until noon and then raise it to its highest point on the staff until sunset.
The World War I poem ” In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae inspired the Memorial Day custom of wearing red artificial poppies. In 1915 a Georgia teacher and war veteran was known as Moina Michael started an initiative to create the poppy to be a symbol of honoring veterans and “keeping faith with all who died.” The sale of the poppy has helped fund the work of The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
9. A few states continue to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.
Many Southern states still have an entire day to honor the Confederate dead, typically called Confederate Memorial Day. It’s celebrated in Alabama on the fourth Monday of April and the final Monday of April in Mississippi. States such as Texas and Tennessee are observed by Confederate Heroes Day on January 19 and Confederate Decoration Day on June 3. However, they don’t declare them official holidays.
10. Every year, Memorial Day is a little different.
It’s not a secret that Memorial Day is a solemn celebration. However, don’t feel embarrassed about doing something fun (like hosting an outdoor barbeque) on the weekend. In the end, you’re not the person who established the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911. This credit belongs to Indianapolis businessman Carl Fisher. The race’s winner is Ray Harroun, averaging 74.6 miles per hour, and finished the race in just six forty-two minutes and four hours.
Gravitas came back on May 30, 1922, the day that it was the day that the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. Supreme Court Chief Justice (and former President) William Howard Taft dedicated the monument in front of a crowd of 50,000 who were segregated by race and including the line of Union and Confederate veterans. The son of Lincoln’s deceased son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was also in attendance.
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In 2000 Congress created 2000 a National Moment of Remembrance that asks Americans to stop for a minute starting at 3 p.m. as an act of unity across the nation. The Time was chosen because it was determined that 3 p.m. “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”