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Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War as a desire to honor those who fought and died.

May 5, 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed “The 30th of May, 1868, is designed 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.”

In 1873, New York became the first state to officially recognize the holiday, and by 1890, Memorial Day was recognized in all of the northern states. The south refused to acknowledge the day, instead honoring their dead on separate days. After World War I, both the northern and southern states recognized the date and changed the holiday from only honoring those from the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.

Memorial Day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May. In December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed, which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.’”

In traditional observance, the flag of the United States is raised to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to half-staff, where it will remain until noon. The half-staff position remembers the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. At noon the flag is raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day to symbolize our memory of those who served and paid with their lives as well as symbolizes the livings resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

Other traditional observations include visiting cemeteries, placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes, visiting memorials and wearing red poppies.

In 1915, Moina Michael conceived an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. Inspired by the poem “In flanders fields,” Moina wrote her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.

This memorial day please take a moment to remember what this day is really about.

Information for this article retrieved from

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on May 27, 2016.