The Origin of Memorial Day

Memorial Day used to be Decoration Day

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring those who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Memorial Day was a response to the Civil War, in which a total of ~ 650,000 soldiers died between both sides. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the country led to several spontaneous commemorations of the dead.

Soon afterwards, May 30, 1868 was set aside “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” ~ Major General John Logan, General Order #11

The holiday was long known as Decoration Day for the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. It wasn’t until 1967 that federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name.

“Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” ~ history.com

Civil War
650,000 dead

World War I
116,000 dead

World War II
405,000 dead

Korean War
36,000 dead

Vietnam War
58,000 dead

Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
7,000 dead

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27 Comments

  1. I am not sure what I think about Memorial Day. I am a Vietnam vet and I am still filled with incredible anger. LBJ and Nixon lied thru their teeth about what we were doing over there. I have 7 medals from Nam but I hate them. It was not until I was older that I began to understand what I did over there. I have no trust in what politicians say and do. I do love our country and I would die for our freedoms if it became necessary but not if some jerk politician told me it was necessary. I have death on my hands from Nam and hate in my heart. Rant over and good day to all.

    1. Texas Boy

      No way for someone like me, or anyone else who wasn’t in it, to know what it’s like for you and those who went through the Vietnam War era, both there and back here at home. How people could be angry at those who served, especially when many were drafted, is beyond me.

      Most of those I know who entered military service did so with an intention to protect American lives and help those whose freedoms were threatened. No one I know did so to serve political or corporate masters. It’s part of the ‘machine’ (Pink Floyd?) to deceive and manipulate good and noble intentions, using and abusing them for a low purpose. Those who do that have blood on their hands and have lost their souls.

      Welcome home, thank you for the courage and honor you carry in your heart, and my you find peace.

    2. I enlisted during Vietnam and I can remember the day the news came out the U.S. Navy was mining the harbor at Haiphong on 8 May 1972.

      I looked about at my fellow soldiers and asked, in disbelief, “You mean it WASN’T MINED?”

    3. Sir, I just want to say thank you for your love of our country and your service. May the Lord Bless you and yours!!

      DT

    4. first off thank you for your service second YOU did nothing wrong you where young and impressionable you did as you where ORDERED to nothing more

  2. I honor the memories of those service people who gave their lives during their service time and the veterans who have passed on since .
    I had the honor to serve with a man who survived a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines , a good and humble man who loved this country.
    May they all rest in eternal peace.

  3. Our deepest thanks for all who have and are serving. Some day…perhaps some day…all wars will end. And the senseless politics behind it all will end also. The only way I can think of it ever happening though is, “Come Lord Jesus!.”

    And I pray everyone who suffers over their service, please be at peace. I can’t understand how you feel, but I bid you peace.

  4. This morning in my prayer I honored and thanked my forefathers and all warriors for their service and received a wonderful acknowledgment from those who have paid for my freedom. My ancestors have fought in every conflict and every war, both declared and not declared, from the late 1600s up to the Afghanistan/Iran time. They fought and died for our freedom and it may be this generation will have to fight for our children’s freedom. I have bricks with ancestors names on them scattered about the USA in Memorial Parks, Courthouse Flag stations, and in cemeteries that honor warriors. God bless all those who have served!

  5. Spent much of this week re-watching documentaries on WWII and Vietnam…and continue to greatly appreciate all those who served, including those who didn’t come back.
    May all of you-including you-Texas Boy, find some peace in the fact that those of us who care have immense respect, apppreciation and admiration for you. Got a meme today on my phone that choked me up….it has two pictures and the following caption… “Our day at the beach is brought to you by their day at the beach” The first picture is of a sunny beach with many swimmers and people out sun tanning. The second picture is of the….landing at Normandy. Wow. Something to think about…

  6. 2 things I remember from my youth about Decoration Day. I was in band, and we always had a community parade to the local cemetery. This was in Ohio and usually we had nice weather. This particular day it was extremely hot, and during the speeches, one of our tuba players passed out and crunched his tuba. The band had a fundraiser shortly after that to purchase fiberglass tubas. The other memory I have is the time my dad cried. He was a veteran of WW 2, Battle of the Bulge.

  7. Vietnam vet, injuries I have lived with all my life.
    Learned about communism from my cousins husband. He was Yugoslav and got out while on their honeymoon. He told me about communism, I was still in high school . I will die before I live under what he told me.
    Honor our fallen, no one else will.
    Spent first of last week with my towns Legion post putting flags on graves,some back to our disagreement with our British cousins!

  8. Last Memorial Day I wrote about my father-in-law. I will write about him today. I hope to do the same next year
    My fil was in university when the war began. He immediately signed up.
    He was from rural Ohio and became a Ranger. He photographed enemy encampments.
    Merrill’s Marauders was formed. They were dropped behind enemy lines with their mission to wipe out Japanese’s camps. His base camp was in India and then he would be flown over the hump into Southeast Asia.
    One evening we were watching a World War Two movie. People were eating bugs. Someone asked him if he ever had to eat bugs. He replied “Well, we were’nt going to starve.
    We have a Japanese rifle at our home. In Burma my fil and his group were being picked off by a Japanese rifleman hidden in the trees.
    My fil and the Japanese soldier both were lined up with each other. The Japanese soldier had the advantage. My fil shot and killed him. The bullet cut the rough the wood stock of the rifle. Blood stains can still be seen.
    We have that rifle and is precious to us.
    Two thousand Merrill Marauders were trade. Two thousand were trained. Two hundred survived and came home. My fil was one of them.
    On this Memorial Day is not a fun filled holiday. Remember those who sacrificed their lives. For those who did survive, they had to live with memories and, as in the case of my fil, malaria.
    May God bless our veterans.

  9. Texas Boy and North Woods,
    Thank you BOTH for your service!
    You served as your country asked, in Good faith. You did the best you were able. Try to not be bogged down with all the facts we know post war..and things that came out since. We can not change the past, only the future.
    I know about aftereffects of that war. … my DH a Vietnam Vet. Someone gave him a “welcome home” a couple of years ago… he said it was his first personal welcome….. He cried.

  10. I am very blessed that every man in my immediate and extended families came home alive after their service to our nation.

    From a great uncle who was a POW in WWII in the Pacific, through Korea, Vietnam and the M.E. … all of them carry (or carried) the physical, mental and emotional scars of their service, as do many of you Patriots here in our MSB family of friends.

    To all of the military service people and their families reading here, thank you and God bless you.

    This is a day we remember those who we lost, but I also think of it is another Veterans Day – an opportunity to give thanks for all of you. My prayers go out to all of you carry the burdens of the sacrifices you made for us all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  11. for all of you that served this country THANK YOU FOR COVERING OUR BUTTS
    i have a very serious personal connection to the military of this country my family has been in this country since 1603 we have had family in our military in every conflict or war this country has been in and as the line goes ALL GAVE SOME some gave everything they had some gave body parts some gave up there very sanity and as far as i can tell every single one had no regrets there is no way for anyone to really adequately thank all you brave people

  12. – Texas Boy, NORTH WOODS,
    Brothers of mine. Dustoff medic from just outside Da Nang from the latter part of the war.
    Not quite the same as your story, but I do understand.
    I had a very bad time for a while, you literally forget even how a normal person wakes up. My DW would not enter the bedroom if I was already asleep, she would call my name from outside the bedroom door because she was scared by how quickly I would move when I awoke, and wouldn’t even know I had. I was diagnosed with PTSD and it was almost two years before I was fit to be around. My family has had at least one member of each generation in the military or law enforcement since the 1600’s; I had an ancestor with Custer prior to the Little Big Horn. Both sides of the Civil War. I have pride and a tradition with my family, and I would prefer that my country had pride in me, rather what they seem to have pride in.
    Later on in my life, I was one of Wesley Clark’s ‘gophers’. Michael Flynn was one of my regular ‘customers’ on my rounds. I always found him to be a gentleman, and as respectful as any general could be. All the cr*p floating around about him, I have never believed.
    A Politicians favorite sport is lying to grunts. We got that. Liberal Politicians, Liberal Media, I have no patience for and I don’t carry any respect or good will for. They are the ones who orchestrated our welcome home, or rather lack of it. I did not feel truly welcome in the land where I was born for years after my return. Not really until after Desert Storm, and a new generation of civilians taught the older ones how to be respectful and thankful.
    Be at peace, guys. At least you made it back. Way too many didn’t.
    – Papa S.

  13. Just found out a man i knew slightly was in the 101st in ww2. Made all three jumps and came home. I doubt the odds of that were very good. Wish i had known him better.

    1. WWII vets didn’t tend to talk much about their experiences, at least those that I knew. The differences then and now are mind numbing.

      1. Ken
        I agree, the worse it was the less they would say. My father in law was in the Burma theater and had 3 bronze stars, all he ever said was, its no fun to be shot at. My school bus driver was over seas for 44 months but wasn’t in much action. He was a mechanic, but thats a long time.

      2. Ken,
        Yes, those who survived WWII seldom talked about it, and tended to give very minimal answers when asked direct questions.

        2 cousins who were boots on the ground in Vietnam also don’t like to talk about what they saw and did. A cousin who was a medic in the M. E. will absolutely not talk about experiences, but he came back completely different – not just mature, but very introspective and subdued.

        I’m like Country, I agree that the more experienced, the less said. I cannot imagine the nightmares.

        1. SoCalGal.
          Sorry off subject here
          Hope you’re doing well.
          Get the hell out of CA.
          Brother in Fullerton is dumping everything to get out now….
          Enough said
          Your Friend

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