Memorial Day is much more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the first sunburn of the year. It is a time to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country. Here are some facts to give your vacation a perspective.
1. The day of remembrance began in response to the civil war.
The commemoration day was a reaction to the unprecedented massacre of the civil war, in which a total of 620,000 soldiers died between the two sides. The loss of life and its impact on communities across the country led to several spontaneous commemorations of the dead.
In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, laid flowers on the graves of their fallen soldiers from the recently contested Battle of Gettysburg. The next year, a group of women adorned the graves of soldiers buried in a cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Two years later, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. In the same month, 21
Waterloo, New York, began an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Though many cities claimed the title, Waterloo gained congressional recognition as the "Birthplace of Remembrance Day".
2. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan made the day official.
General Logan, spokesman for the Carbondale meeting, was also the commander of the Republic's Great Army, an organization of Union veterans. On May 5, 1868, he issued General Order No. 11, which canceled May 30, 1868, "to scatter flowers or otherwise adorn the graves of comrades who died during the late uprising to defend their country."
The orders expressed the hope that compliance would "be maintained year after year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his deceased comrades".
3. The commemoration day was originally known as a decoration day.
The holiday was long known as a day of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags. The name "Memorial Day" dates back to 1882, but the older name only disappeared after the Second World War. It wasn't until 1967 that the federal law made "Memorial Day" the official name.
4. Memorial Day is more of a franchise than a national day.
To call Memorial Day a "national day" is a misnomer. While Congress created 10 federal holidays – including Memorial Day – these apply only to federal employees and the District of Columbia. Federal Memorial Day, founded in 1888, enabled civil war veterans, many of whom pulled a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades without docking a daily wage.
For the rest of us, our holidays were set from state to state. New York was the first state to make Memorial Day a public holiday in 1873. Most of the northern states followed this example in the 1890s. The states of the former confederation were not enthusiastic about a holiday commemorating those who, in General Logan's words, "had come together to quell the late uprising." The south did not take the commemoration day on May 30th until after the First World War. At that point, its purpose was extended to those who perished in all of the country's wars.
In 1971, the law on the single Monday holiday postponed the commemoration day from May 30 to the last Monday in May.
5. In 1868, future President James Garfield made a very, very long speech about the importance of Memorial Day.
On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant directed the first Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery – which was the Confederate General Robert E. Lee's plantation until 1864.
Around 5,000 people attended on a spring day, which, according to the New York Times was "a little too warm for comfort". "" The keynote speaker was James A. Garfield, a civil war general, Republican Congressman from Ohio and future president.
"I am oppressed by the feeling that it is inappropriate to speak words on this occasion," Garfield began, then continued to speak. "If silence is ever golden, it must be next to the graves of fifteen thousand men whose lives were more important than language and whose death was a poem whose music can never be sung." So it went on for pages and pages that lasted almost two hours.
When the songs, speeches and sermons ended, participants helped decorate the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
6. CBS helped identify one of the unknown soldiers.
"Here, an American soldier who is known only to God rests in honored glory." This is the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknowns that was erected at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1921 to bury the remains of the first unknown soldier, a World War I fighter. Unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were then buried in the grave on Memorial Day 1958.
On May 28, 1984, Memorial Day, an emotional president, Ronald Reagan, led the burial of six bones, the remains of an unidentified soldier from the Vietnam War. Fourteen years later, the Department of Defense, inspired by an investigation by CBS News, removed the remains of the Unknown's grave for DNA testing.
The once unknown fighter was identified as Air Force pilot Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, whose jet crashed in South Vietnam in 1972. "The CBS investigation found that the military review body, which changed the name of Lt. Blassie's remains to" unknown ", did so under pressure from veteran groups to honor a victim from the Vietnam War" The New York Times reported in 1998.
Lieutenant Blassie was buried near his hometown of St. Louis. His crypt in Arlington remains permanently empty.
7. A Vietnam Veterans Rights Group will hold a virtual motorcycle ride in honor of Memorial Day in 2020.
On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2,500 motorcyclists drove to the first Rolling Thunder rally in Washington, DC to draw attention to the Vietnam War when soldiers and prisoners of war were still missing. By 2002, the ride had grown to 300,000 bikers, including many veterans, and by 2018 it was likely to be almost half a million.
Though it has been reported that 2019 will be the group's last day of commemoration, the organization says American Veterans (AMVETS) continue the tradition amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to WUSA9. Now known as Rolling to Remember, the ride in 2020 will be a little different – instead of hundreds of thousands of drivers driving through Washington, DC, the organizers ask attendees to drive 22 miles through their own community on Sunday, May, for a virtual demonstration on Memorial Day 24. Drivers can then track and share their progress using the REVER app.
Traveling 22 miles is important because AMVETS not only wants to raise awareness of soldiers and prisoners of war missing in action, but also the average of 22 veterans who die from suicide every day.
8. The day of remembrance has its own customs.
General Ordinance No. 11 states that "no form of ceremony is required with this observance," but over time, several customs and symbols have been associated with the holiday. Above all, it is common on Memorial Day to raise the flag on a half stick until noon and then raise it to the top of the stick until sunset.
John McCrea's "In Flanders Fields" poem from the First World War inspired the custom of Memorial Day to wear red artificial poppies. In 1915, a Georgian teacher and volunteer war worker named Moina Michael launched a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of homage to veterans and "to preserve faith in all who died". The sale of poppies supported the work of the veterans of the foreign wars.
9. Some states are still celebrating a Confederate Day of Remembrance.
Several southern states have also scheduled a day to honor the Confederate Dead, which is usually referred to as a Confederate Day of Remembrance, according to AL.com. It's the fourth Monday in April in Alabama and the last Monday in April in Mississippi, while states like Texas and Tennessee celebrate Confederate Heroes Day on January 19 and Confederate Decoration Day on June 3, but they don't directly declare them State Holidays.
10. Every day of remembrance is a little different.
There is no question that the day of remembrance is a solemn event. Nevertheless, do not feel too guilty if you do something frivolous at the weekend (e.g. organize a barbecue). After all, you weren't the one who launched the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911. This loan goes to businessman Carl Fisher from Indianapolis. The winning driver that day was Ray Harroun, who drove an average of 74.6 miles per hour and completed the race in six hours and 42 minutes.
Gravitas returned on May 30, 1922 when the Lincoln Memorial was inaugurated. Supreme Court Justice (and former President) William Howard Taft inaugurated the memorial to a crowd of 50,000 segregated races that included a number of Union and Confederate veterans. Lincoln's surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, also participated.
In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Memory calling on Americans to take a minute off at 3:00 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3pm. "is the time when most Americans enjoy their freedoms on National Day."
This article originally appeared in 2008.