Following the tragic conflict of the American Civil War, it was estimated that more than 620,000 soldiers had perished. Whether these soldiers had worn blue or gray, the loss and grief of their families and friends was overwhelming. At a time when our nation was struggling to reunite, the bitter wounds which had torn the nation apart remained raw and powerful.
On May 5, 1866, the tradition of decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers was initiated as Decoration Day. This simple gesture of placing flowers and flags on soldiers’ graves or on battlefields was a first step toward healing from an unprecedented war which had pitted North against South.
In 1971, Decoration Day was officially changed to Memorial Day by an act of Congress which designated the last Monday in May as a national holiday to honor the lives of American soldiers lost in military service in all wars and conflicts.
On any day of the year, Americans should come together to recognize the bravery of all the men and women who are currently serving in the military –but especially to give thanks for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our nation’s freedoms. Take time now and on Memorial Day to remember the bravery of the American soldier with pride in their accomplishments and gratitude for their service.