Memorial Day is not all about a three-day weekend and summer travel plans. It’s way more than just that. It is observed, on the last Monday of May, to remember the services of the men and women who died while in the military service.
Sure, attending parades and waving flags is an important part of the commemoration but the true significance of the day should not be forgotten.
Here are seven quick facts about Memorial Day that would help you understand more about its historical importance.
When and where did the first Memorial Day observance take place?
It happened after the American Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865.
Hundreds of Union soldiers at the Charleston Race Course had been held as prisoners of war during the deadliest conflict in the history of the United States.
At least 257 Union prisoners died there and were buried in unmarked graves. It was in that year when teachers and missionaries, the black residents of Charleston organized the first Memorial Day-like ceremony for the fallen soldiers.
Although many states and cities previously tried placing claim on the title, on May 26, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day in the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.
General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern veterans, initiated the tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags.
Although the name Memorial Day was used during the early 1880s, the older name disappeared after World War II.
"Memorial Day"was declared as the official name by federal law in 1967.
The first Memorial Day speech was given by the 20th President of the United States James A. Garfield, then an Ohio congressman.
The historical address was held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 1868 during the time when the day was still known as Decoration Day.
The oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade is held in which city?
The claim to hosting the nation's oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade is laid by Ironton, Ohio and Doylestown, Pennsylvania and New York City.
Memorial Day and Vietnam War soldiers:
In 1988, 2,500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C. for the first Rolling Thunder rally On Memorial Day weekend.
Their purpose was to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action or prisoners of war.
The ride became an annual feature since then and according to sources, the number of participants increased to 300,000 bikers by 2002 and half-million in 2005 – many of which generally include veterans.
Confederate Memorial Day:
There are separate Memorial Day holidays in several southern states that continue to set aside a day for honoring the Confederate dead of the Civil War. It’s marked on:
The fourth Monday in April in Alabama,
April 26 in Georgia, June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee,
The last Monday in April in Mississippi,
May 10 in North and South Carolina,
January 19 in Texas, and
The last Monday in May in Virginia.