The US started Memorial Day celebrations after the Civil War. The US was reeling from the loss of 620,000 people killed in battle, the largest number of Americans ever killed in war. In 1868 the holiday, then called Decoration Day, was a day for putting flowers and flags on graves. The day in May was the Northern States Celebration. The Southern States had their own holiday in January.
After WWI Memorial Day was expanded to be a way to honor all the soldiers who died in American wars. This year is the 100th anniversary of when the US entered into WWI. When I was in Kansas City I went to the National WWI Museum. If you are ever in Kansas City, eat the BBQ and visit the Museum. It was most informative about why WWI wasn’t the last World War. It was sobering and humbling that so many men and women gave their lives for our freedoms.
In 1971 Memorial Day was made a national holiday. It was the middle of the Vietnam War and the country was struggling with how to honor the soldiers of a very unpopular war. I would like to say that was the last war, but I work at the VA and the price of freedom is visible in the halls every day.
Take a moment on Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives. Traditionally it is at 3 pm. I will have a moment of silent gratefulness.
For love of country they accepted death… ~James A. Garfield