Most Americans now-a-days have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. We think of it only as another "three-day weekend", a time for parades and picnics.

But to help and to remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed by Congress in Dec 2000 which asks us one and all to stop, at 3 p.m. our local time; for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps." This resolution was passed to: "remind Americans of the real purpose of Memorial Day and thank veterans and members of the armed forces for their service to our great country."

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states.

The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries.

In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

Since the late 1950's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act, P.L. 90 - 363, in 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays).

And since 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program).

On this day we honor:

Revolutionary War - 4,435 American Deaths
War of 1812 - 2,260 American Deaths
Mexican War - 1,733 American Deaths
Civil War - 364,511 Union Deaths
Civil War - 133,821 Confederate Deaths
Spanish American War - 53,402 American Deaths
World War I - 118,518 American Deaths
World War II - 405,399 American Deaths
Korean War - 36,516 American Deaths
Vietnam War - 58,198 American Deaths
Gulf War - 383 American Deaths
Operation Iraqi Freedom - 4486 American Deaths
Operation Enduring Freedom (Afganistan) - 2301 American Deaths



"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval."

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Our thanks go to the US Memorial Day Organization for much of the historical data provided on this page.