As an U.S. Air Force veteran and department officer of the American Legion, I feel I must respond to a statement made June 30 in Speakout about Memorial Day.
The person wrote: “When did Memorial Day become Veterans Day 2? I thought Memorial Day was to remember everyone who has died: family, parents, friends, etc. I thought Veterans Day was in November.”
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.
More than two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo, N.Y., was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1968, it is difficult to prove the origins of the day.
Regardless of the exact date or location of its origin, one thing is clear: Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead.
It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11.
“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 Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the First Decoration Day, Gen. James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldier buried there.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states.