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Remembering The Ultimate Sacrifice

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on May 23, 2012 with No Comments

Observance started in 1868

The nation pays homage to those who have died in its service on Memorial Day, the last Monday in May. It is a national day of remembrance, originally called Decoration Day. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 following General Order 11 issued May 5, 1868 by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

In that first observance, centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion once the home of Robert E. Lee, flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery by members of the Grand Army of the Republic and children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home. The cemetery is across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

New York was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1873, but by 1890 all northern states had joined. The South refused to fully recognize the holiday until after World War I, when the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in any war, not just the Civil War.

The National Holiday Act of 1971 shifted observance to the last Monday in May from its traditional date of May 30 in order to ensure a three-day weekend for Federal holidays.

Memorial Day is often considered a bookend holiday with Labor Day, together signaling the beginning and the end of the summer season.

Since the 1950s, 1,200 soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry have been placing small American flags at each of the 260,000 grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery and then patrolling the area around the clock during the weekend to make sure the flags are not disturbed.

In December 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them with so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrances asks all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time to remember and honor those who died in the service to the nation.

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