WOD 5/30/2011

Memorial Day is our day of remembrance of the men and women who died in service to our country.  It was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves.  The first known observance was in Waterloo, NY on May 5, 1866 (in fact, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Waterloo as the official birthplace of Memorial Day).  On May 5th, 1868, General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic – the organization for Northern Civil War Veterans – issued a proclamation that “Decoration Day” should be observed nationwide.  It was observed for the first time on May 30th of that same year, the date chosen because it was NOT the anniversary of a battle.  By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who died in all of America’s wars.  In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.  Today, Memorial Day is observed at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave.  Also, it is customary for the President or Vice President to give a speech honoring the contributions of the deceased and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  On Memorial Day, the flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon.  It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.  The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country.  At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.