Honoring the Fallen: A History of Memorial Day

By Valerie Cox, guest contributor, Caliber Collision

Cookouts, pool parties, and a day off of work are what most people think of when Memorial Day is mentioned; however, Memorial Day stands for so much more. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to honor those who died while in military service. America was founded on the bravery and valor of many men and women, and even today, so much of our freedom is due to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

From its creation, Memorial Day has undergone numerous changes but remains one of America’s most sacred holidays.

Originally known as Decoration Day, veterans and civilians would gather to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Decoration Day was designed to honor soldiers killed in the Civil War so many Southern states did not participate until after World War I.

Prior to World War I, Memorial Day honored only those lost in the Civil War, and after World War I, Memorial Day paid tribute to Americans lost in any war.

Even though dozens of cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, NY, first celebrated this day on May 5, 1866 and was officially declared as the birthplace by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Known as the founder of Memorial Day, General John A. Logan declared May 30, 1868 as the first official Decoration Day, and he chose this date because flowers would be in bloom throughout the United States.

Over the years, red poppies have come to symbolize Memorial Day. In 1915, Moina Michael read the poem “In Flanders Fields” in Ladies’ Home Journal and decided to use red poppies to remember the soldiers lost. She started selling artificial red poppies to her friends and family as a way to raise money and awareness for veterans, and the trend caught on and continues today.

Modern-day Memorial Day has had many changes throughout the years, but the meaning behind it remains the same. In 1967, the name was legally changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, and the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 changed the date from May 30th to the last Monday of May starting in 1971. In December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed to ask all Americans to observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time as a way to honor fallen service members. Flags are to remain at half-staff until noon when they are to be fully raised because this honors both fallen soldiers and living veterans.

President Abraham Lincoln addressed honoring our military when he said, “Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” Everyone should take the time to honor a fallen military member or thank a service member or a veteran. America would not be what it is today without their great sacrifice, and we should pause to remember those who bravely gave their lives for our freedom.

Many companies have led the way in supporting our military and veterans, and we should follow their lead and give back to those who make our freedom possible. Numerous businesses are stepping up and making an effort to assist our military heroes by establishing support programs and hiring veterans to serve as members of their workforce. As American citizens, we should take initiative from companies like the ones listed below and play our part in honoring our brave military heroes and their families.

American Red Cross– Service to Armed Forces, distributes assistance to active duty military, veterans, and their families. The Red Cross also observes Memorial Day each year by placing American flags on graves at national cemeteries.
Brown Paper Tickets– gives event tickets to active duty service members, veterans, and their families
Caliber Collison– Recycled Rides, donates refurbished vehicles to veterans and active-duty military
Girl Scouts of the USA– Troop to Troops, delivers donated Girl Scout cookies to military troops stationed overseas
Goldman Sachs– Veterans Integration Program, provides military service members leaving the military with a two-month training program to develop professional skills, strengthen their finance knowledge, and prepare for a finance career
Green Beans Coffee– Cup O’Joe for a Joe, supplies coffee to military stationed overseas
Walgreens– W-Vets, provides networking, peer mentoring, professional development, and community service opportunities to veterans
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment– Waves of Honor, contributes free admission to theme parks including SeaWorld, Busch Garden, and more to active duty service members and up to 3 direct dependents


DFW National Cemetery
DFW National Cemetery

As Americans, we should consider it an honor to remember those who protect our country. Whether it is placing an American flag on a veteran’s grave or cooking a meal for a military family, every act of kindness matters and makes a difference. You do not have to contribute millions to honor our military heroes, but you should remember these brave warriors in some shape or form. So on this Memorial Day, take the time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

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