Every Memorial Day weekend, many Americans pack up their vehicles and go camping, to picnics, or just travel to see friends and family. Since it is the beginning of summer season, it is a great time to get away and relax. What everyone needs to keep in mind is the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day. While people are laughing and playing, there are many others who are mourning the loss of a loved one who died while fighting for and defending our great country.
In today’s post, we are going to look at 10 cool facts about Memorial Day. These are probably facts you did not know. Share these facts with others as you are having fun this Memorial Day weekend, and please stop for a moment of respect and remembrance as to why we celebrate this yearly holiday. Give thanks for the Soldiers who have died to guarantee you can celebrate this day in a free United States.
# 1 When and where Memorial Day started. The very first Memorial Day was held on May 5th, 1866. It was in honor of the many Soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War. The United States Government has declared that the official place where Memorial Day started was Waterloo, New York. Even though Waterloo was declared the starting point, in April of that year, Columbus, Mississippi had women put flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union Soldiers. Also that month in Carbondale, Illinois, a large group of veterans marched through the town to Woodlawn Cemetery to honor the dead.
# 2 Became Memorial Day in 1967. The holiday was known as Decoration Day for years. It was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Soldiers, hence Decoration Day. The Federal Government did not officially change the name to Memorial Day until 1967.
# 3 Gettysburg National Battlefield observes its own Memorial Day. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the site of one of the worst battles in the history of the Civil War. While the nation celebrates Memorial Day in May every year, Gettysburg has its own Memorial Day held in November when the cemetery was dedicated. It is the closest weekend to November 19th, and is called Remembrance Day.
# 4 Attempts are being made to set Memorial Day back to May 30th. The original Memorial Day was to be May 30th of every year. Because of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the Government made the holiday fall the last Monday of May. The American Legion and other Veteran organizations are fighting to have the holiday restored to May 30.
# 5 That 3 PM moment. It has been established that at 3 PM on Memorial Day it is a Moment of Remembrance. President William Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on December 28th, 2000.
# 6 Vietnam Vets jump on motorcycles. Since 1988, Vietnam Veterans have been getting on their motorcycles at the start of Memorial Day weekend. They converge in Washington D.C. to gain attention to those who were still missing in action or prisoners of war. This yearly occurrence gained popularity through the early 2000’s, but as Vietnam Veterans have aged, it has slowed down.
# 7 Proper Flag raising. It is proper that all United States flags are raised to full-staff at day break, and then slowly lowered to half-staff. They are left at half-staff until 12 noon, and they are raised to full-staff. The meaning behind this is quite simple…the half-staff position until noon remembers those who gave their lives. The raising to full-staff is the living rising to not let the deaths be in vain.
# 8 Confederate Memorial Day. There are several Southern States that have set aside other days to be a Confederate Memorial Day. These include:
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- and Virginia who celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the same day as Memorial Day.
# 9 Do you know how many Soldiers you are honoring? The numbers of Soldiers who have died should be known. These are the approximate figures:
- Civil War-620,000
- World War I-116,500
- World War II-405,400
- Korean War-36,570
- Desert Shield/Storm-300
- Iraqi Freedom-4,420
- New Dawn-70
- Enduring Freedom-2,320
These are all approximate figures, but it shows just how many Soldiers you honor the last Monday of May.
# 10 Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500. The automobile race of all races started running on Memorial Day of 1911 thanks to Carl Fisher. The winner of that race was Ray Harroun who ran speeds averaging 75 MPH. It took him 6 hours and 42 minutes to finish the race.
It is good to have family time and have fun during the Memorial Day weekend, but please do not neglect to remember why we have this yearly holiday. Stop for a moment and give thanks that we have the many who were, and are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend and protect our great country.
Here at Part Time Commander, we wish you all a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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