BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
On Monday, May 30, people all over the United States observed Memorial Day.
Locally, The Greenville Lion’s Club held their annual 19th Memorial Day Celebration at the Greenville High School auditorium with a sizeable crowd in attendance.
United States Flags were placed in the main street area by Camellia City Civitan Club members, while other community members placed flags in their yards; others placed flags at the graves of service members.
Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day) is a federal holiday in the United States for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States armed forces.
It is observed on the last Monday of May and it was formerly observed on May 30 from 1868 to 1970.
Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial beginning of summer in the United States.
Many cities and people have claimed to have first celebrated the event. By 1890, every Northern state had adopted it as a holiday.
The World Wars turned it into a generalized day of remembrance instead of just for the Civil War.
In 1971, Congress standardized the holiday as “Memorial Day” and changed its observance to the last Monday in May.
Two other days celebrate those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military: Armed Forces Day (which is the third Saturday in May), an unofficial U.S. holiday for honoring those currently serving in the armed forces, and Veterans Day (Nov. 11), which honors those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
The website https://nationaltoday.com/memorial-day/ displays the following information:
HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY
The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House on April 9.
Over 620,000 soldiers died in the four-year conflict. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization of Union veterans) would eventually select May 30, 1868, as a day to pay tribute to the fallen:
The 30th of May, 1868, is designated 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…”
Logan apparently chose May 30 because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. States passed proclamations, and the Army and Navy adopted rules for proper observance at their facilities.
The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance — about 5,000 people.
Small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition still followed at many national cemeteries today.
In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.
By 1890, each Northern state had made Decoration Day an official holiday. But this was not the case in the South, where states continued to honor their dead on separate days until after the First World War.
The May 30 date held for decades. But, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change took place in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Towns and cities across the country host grand Memorial Day parades every year, often featuring senior veterans and military personnel.
Some of the biggest parades take place in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Cemeteries and memorials are also visited by Americans, with some citizens wearing or holding red poppies to symbolize those who have fallen in war.
This tradition has been around since World War I. Weekend trips and parties are also arranged to balance out the somberness of the day and welcome the summer.
BY THE NUMBERS
620,000 – the number of soldiers who died on both sides of the Civil War.
$1.5 billion – the number of dollars typically spent on meat and seafood in preparation for Memorial Day weekend.
60% – the percentage of American households who attend or host a barbecue on this day.
1.5 million – the number of people who watch the National Memorial Day Parade.
260,000 – the number of graves at Arlington National Cemetery adorned with flags in 2019.
45 million – the number of men and women who have served in a time of war for the U.S.
3 p.m. – the time of day when a moment of silence is observed by Americans throughout the country on this day.