Things You Might Not Know About Memorial Day

Many Americans see Memorial Day as an opportunity to relax in the yard, gather with friends, or plan a weekend getaway — and it very much is. As Americans enjoy the holiday weekend, does anyone know how Memorial Day originated? Memorial Day is much more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the year's first sunburn. Memorial Day isn't just an opportunity for a barbecue or beach trip. It's a day honoring American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

I met Patrick when I used to wait on him at Applebee's in Tracy. He was always so polite and sweet. Always had a wonderful smile on his face. I was so upset when I read about his death. Let’s check some facts about memorial day.

Decoration Day 2017

Memorial Day Facts

We're all aware that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but Congress has also established an exact minute of remembrance.In addition to any federal observances, Major League Baseball games usually come to a stop during the Moment of Remembrance, and for the past several years, Amtrak engineers have taken up the practice of sounding their horns in unison at precisely 3:00 p.m.

Started with the Civil War:

Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pa., put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg.

It was first known as Decoration Day:

This thing you might know. The holiday was long known as Decoration Day for the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags.

"Taps," the bugle call typically performed at military funerals as well as the annual Memorial Day wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, was actually adapted from a separate Civil War. The new melody later became the preferred accompaniment at military funerals after Captain John Tidball of the Union Army alert nearby Confederate troops to their location.

The Ironton-Lawrence Memorial Day Parade in Iron ton, Ohio, is recognized as the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in the nation, beginning all the way back in 1868.

Calling Memorial Day a "national holiday" is a bit of a misnomer. While there are 10 federal holidays created by Congress—including Memorial Day—they apply only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia.

  • On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery—which, until 1864, was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's plantation. As the songs, speeches and sermons ended, the participants helped to decorate the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
  • An emotional President Ronald Reagan presided over the interment of six bones, the remains of an unidentified Vietnam War soldier, on Nov. 28, 1984. The once-unknown fighter was Air Force pilot Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, whose jet crashed in South Vietnam in 1972.
  • Even though Memorial Day began as a holiday honoring Union soldiers, some states still have Confederate observances. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. The crowd that attended the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was about the same size as those that attend today's observance: about 5,000 people.
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