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Origins of Memorial Day

Young man holding American flag on back while standing in wheat field on dawn


Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and have defended the lives of all Americans.

The history of Memorial Day dates back to the aftermath of the American Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865. The war had claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans. In the years following the war, people in various communities across the country began holding tributes to the fallen soldiers.

One of the earliest and most well-known Memorial Day observances was held in Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1865. A group of newly freed slaves, along with some white missionaries, organized a ceremony to honor Union soldiers who had died in a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. They decorated the graves with flowers, sang hymns, and held a parade.

The first national observance of Memorial Day was held on May 30, 1868, when General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide day of remembrance for the soldiers who died in the Civil War. The date of May 30 was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.

Over time, Memorial Day has come to honor all men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, not just those who died in the Civil War. In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday, and its observance was moved to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend. Today, many people across the country observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries, holding parades, and attending ceremonies to honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for their country.

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Godshall salutes all the fallen soldiers that afforded us our freedom and safety.