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Remembering Our Fallen

Today as you head out to celebrate Memorial Day, please take a moment to pause and remember our fallen men and women who served this country proudly so that we could enjoy the freedoms that we have today. While many of us will be gathering to cookout or go to the beach or local pool remember that there are families today that are grieving for those who will not be coming home this holiday. As we gather with our family and friends let’s pause to remember the origins of what we today call Memorial Day.

As early as 1865, in the closing days of the Civil War and in the years after communities in both the North and the South began to gather in their local cemeteries and honor the graves of the fallen soldiers by decorating the tombs with wreaths and flowers. These gatherings would come to be known as Decoration Day. On April 25, 1866, a group of women from the community while gathered to decorate the graves of the fallen Southern troops noticed the graves of Northern Troops who where bare and proceeded to also decorate those graves. More and more communities would also begin to decorate the graves of troops from both sides of the Civil War. In Waterloo, New York on May 5, the community came together to honor veterans who fought in the Civil War. Local business closed for the day and flags where then flown by the community at half staff in honor of those who had died in the Civil War.

On May 30, 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan head of the Grand Army of the Republic said the following in a speech he was asked to give that day:

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance…Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Logan would go on to order his posts to decorate all fallen soldiers’ graves with the choicest flowers. That same year in what now is known as Arlington National Cemetery 5,000 people (which continues to this day) gathered to honor the lives of those buried there who had died in the Civil War. Those gathered paid tribute to those buried there by saying prayers, playing dirges, singing hymns, a recitation of the Gettysburg Address, and the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Asylum that day decorated the tombs of the soldiers with flowers and flags.

At the end of the 19th century State Legislations had enacted legislation setting aside a day to honor the fallen soldiers. Even the Army and Navy by this time had adopted regulations for the proper observance at their facilities. At the end of World War 1 Decoration Day was expanded to honor all soldiers kill in all American Wars.

In 1971 the U.S. Congress official renamed Decoration Day to Memorial Day and moved it from May 30 to the last Monday of May. At this time Memorial Day became an official National Holiday. In December 2000 the U.S. Congress passed “The National Moment of Remembrance” in which it asked all Americans to pause at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day to pause for a moment of silence to honor those lost in the service of our country.

So, this year before you fire up the grill, hit the beach or hangout at the pool, please pause and remember those for whom this day had been set aside to remember. And if you pray say a prayer for those families who are missing their mom or dad, son or daughter, brother or sister, and friends and loved ones. If you see people hanging out at the local cemetery, please be respectful to those paying respect to our fallen troops.

For Further reading on the History of Memorial Day please visit:


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