May is a very important month for American service men and women. There is Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated annually on the third Saturday in May. Then there is also Memorial Day, a day in which to remember service men and women who have died in combat or while in service to their country.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. The reason why it was first known as Decoration Day was because service members’ graves were decorated with flowers and flags. This day was created as a reaction to all the deaths of over 600,000 soldiers in the Civil War. These were from both sides of the war. Something had to be done to remember the dead. And so, on May 5, 1868, Memorial Day was created. On the inaugural Decoration Day, General James Garfield appeared at the Arlington National Cemetery and made a speech while participants decorated the graves of thousands of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate.
New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day in 1873 and was recognized by all Northern states just seven years later. The South opposed this day to memorialize the soldiers, so they celebrated on their own day until after World War I. The day is spent memorializing all members of the military who have died in combat after the Civil War
Thanks to the passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 by Congress, Memorial Day is now observed in nearly every state on the last Monday in May. Several states consider it a Federal holiday which allows for it to be a three day weekend for many. It is also considered to be the official start of the summer season in the United States.
Trivia: At Arlington National Cemetery, each grave interred there has one American flag to mark it on Memorial Day? This has been done since 1948.