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It Wasn’t Always Memorial Day

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Thanks to an NBC7 viewer, I’ve learned something important that I’d like to share with you; a really cool factoid that I never knew and I’m wagering you didn’t either.

It’s actually a history lesson about today’s holiday; it used to be called Decoration Day.

It started way back, a few years after the Civil War ended. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of active and former Union Soldiers, designated a day to “decorate” the graves of their fallen comrades. This took place on May 5, 1868. The largest memorial by far was held at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC where 5,000 gravesites were either strewn with flowers or some other special decoration.

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GAR then decided that May 30 should be the official day for the Country to honor their fallen because no major Civil War battle had been decided on that date and because across the Country flowers would be in full bloom.

While Southern States refused to acknowledge this “Union Holiday”, by 1900 it was celebrated across the rest of the Country on every 30th day of May.

Following World War I, Decoration Day expanded to include the graves of all men and women who had died in the service of their Country and in 1938, it was formalized and became a designated National Holiday.

Another change came about at the end of World War II, when the Holiday became more commonly known as Memorial Day. This new name stuck and become official by Congress in 1967.

An even bigger change took place four short years later when Congress passed the National Holiday Act, which insured federal employees a number of 3-day holidays. Since then Memorial Day has been held on the last Monday in May.

It should be noted this last change is not without it’s detractors. Instead of Memorial Day being what it’s become: the unofficial kick-off of summer, (a day at the beach, a picnic or a trip to the mall to shop the big sales) the VFW and others want to revert it back to May 30. They say it’s only fitting that Memorial Day should stand out, regain its significance no matter what day of the week.

And they vow to keep fighting, fighting for those who fought and died for all of us, fight and win for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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