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 embroiled 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
According to the website History.com, on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated 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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of
, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. On the first Decoration Day, General
made a speech at
Arlington National Cemetery
, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
Today, we remember family and friends who lost their lives in defense of our country. For me, this was a cousin. His name is found etched on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. To all we say, “On behalf of a grateful nation…”