The history of Memorial Day

The famous photo of a flag being raised after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (Joe Rosenthal/AP)
The famous photo of a flag being raised after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (Joe Rosenthal/AP)

BIRMINGHAM (WCFT) – Do you know why we observe Memorial Day?  We went to the US Department of Veterans Affairs website for a quick history lesson, and it opens like this:

“Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.”

The first observance happened at the Arlington National Cemetary.

Related: Memorial Day events scheduled around East Tennessee

The article on the site goes on to say that by end of the 1800’s, ceremonies were being observed on May 30 across the nation as state lawmakers passed proclamations.  It was after World War I though that the day expanded to include and “honor all those who have died in all American wars.”  In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday and designated the last Monday in May as the day of celebration.

You can learn more on the VA website.
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