Memorial Day is a celebration marked with backyard BBQs and travel. Of course, the reason for the long weekend is to remember and honor our fallen United States service members.
Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.
During that first national commemoration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. Afterward, 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
This national event galvanized efforts to honor and remember fallen soldiers that began with local observances at burial grounds in several towns throughout the United States. In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act; this established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May. It recognizes fallen service members from every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force.