The last Monday in May
As we hear on the news about fighting in foreign countries today, we are reminded of the many times our soldiers have fought and even given their lives for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. A special day has been set aside to remember the sacrifices given by these soldiers to protect our rights and freedoms. That day is called Memorial Day.
Memorial Day, often referred to as, "a day of remembrance," was first known as Decoration Day. It is a special day noted on our calendars each year for Americans to remember those who lost their lives in service of their country. After the Civil War, which ended in 1865, our country was in confusion, following a time when brother fought brother. Families and lives had been destroyed because of the fighting, and morale was extremely low. It is believed that two veterans observed a woman and two children decorate the grave of a soldier with flowers. The two veterans were so emotionally touched that they decorated more veterans' graves.
History credits Henry C. Wells, a druggist in Waterloo, New York, for starting a social gathering to honor the "patriotic dead" in 1865. These social gatherings or ceremonies continued in 1866 and 1867. On May 30, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, ordered that the 30th day of May be "designated for the purpose of decorating graves of the war dead." At the first national observance of Memorial Day, General James Garfield delivered a speech reminding all present of the contributions to liberty and peace given by soldiers who fought for our country. This day, May 30th, was celebrated as a day for remembering those who lost their lives in American wars. In May 1966, just in time for the 100th observation of Memorial Day, Waterloo New York was recognized as the "Birthplace of Memorial Day" by the United States government. In 1968 Memorial Day was officially changed to the last Monday in May. For 1999, that day is Monday, May 31st.