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Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is about much more than a three-day weekend. We hope that while you take the time to relax and spend time with loved ones, you also remember the origins of the holiday and why it was created. It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and thankfulness for all those who lost their lives serving, and the families they left behind. 

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  • Memorial Day, Previously called Decoration Day, is dedicated to honoring and remembering all those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces
  • The holiday originated after the Civil War and became an official national holiday in 1971
  • The origins of the holiday began when national cemeteries were created after the Civil War, which established a ritual of visiting graves to recite prayers and decorate graves with flowers
  • The holiday originally only honored those who lost their lives fighting in the Civil War. As time went on, the holiday gradually incorporated those who lost their lives in all U.S. wars
  • On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington Virginia. Afterward, the graves of 20,000 Civil War Veterans in the cemetery were decorated by participants
  • The national moment of remembrance occurs at 3:00 p.m. each Memorial Day, to have a moment of silence and reflection
  • The proper flag etiquette on Memorial day is to quickly raise the flag to full staff at sunrise, then slowly lower it to half-staff where it stays until noon. Afterward, the flag should be briskly raised to full-staff until sunset. 
  • If you live in a residential home and are unable to lower the flag, you can keep your flag flying as is to keep it waving in remembrance 
  • Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial start to summer, similar to Labor Day marking the unofficial start of fall
  • The U.S. has two other holidays honoring those who are serving or have served: Armed Forces Day for those currently serving and Veterans Day for those who served
  • The annual Memorial Day parade in Rochester, Wisconsin is the oldest one continuously running in the U.S.
  • Since 1920, the poppy flower has become the official symbol of Memorial Day
  • Poppies were first introduced to Memorial Day through the war poem, in In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
  • In 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day 
  • Memorial Day used to be observed on May 30, but in 1968 Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, to create a three day weekend for federal employees

To the families of fallen service members: we honor your family’s sacrifice, we remember, and we will be thinking of you Monday.

Reflections, Vietname Memorial, Lee Teter
Reflections by Lee Teter
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