Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.
During that first national celebration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities observed Memorial Day, and several states had declared it a legal holiday. After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.
As we gather together with friends and family over Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to remember and to offer prayers for all of the men and women who lost their lives while in service to the United States of America. They gave their lives defending our country, and for that we owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. We honor their sacrifice by working every day to ensure we remain one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
William R. Dougan
NFFE National President