As we spend the weekend celebrating, it is important to understand the importance of Monday’s holiday. Around 160 years ago, the United States was trying to recover from the Civil War. The nation had torn itself apart, and destroyed many cities, and killed irreplaceable numbers of our young men. We should never forget the devastation this war brought on our country lest we repeat it.
Shortly after the Civil War, Union Officers William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore estimated the combined death toll as 618,222 men. In 2010 the number of dead was raised to about 750,000 based on research compiled from census data by J. David Hacker.
The movement to remember the fallen began on a local level with cities and municipalities marking the graves of the dead soldiers with wreaths, and they called it Decoration Day. Overtime the name slowly changed to Memorial Day, and after World War II people started honoring all war dead.
President Johnson officially signed a proclamation in 1966 declaring the first celebration as occurring on May 5, 1866 in Waterloo, New York. However, this date and location are highly controversial. He also officially named it Memorial Day, and designated it as the date to honor all members of the United States armed services who died serving their country.
The estimate for the total number of deaths for U.S. military service members killed in war stands at 1,321,612. The American Civil War accounts for more than half the deaths of our military soldiers killed in war.
Memorial Day holiday celebrations occur on the last Monday in May. Flags are flown at half-mast, and markers are placed on the graves of fallen soldiers. Some towns still hold parades to honor the fallen. It is also considered the first weekend of summer, and many families participate in outdoor activities.
However you choose to enjoy the weekend, please take a moment to remember those that have given their lives for our freedom.