Originally known as “Decoration Day”, the observance of Memorial Day as we know and recognize it on last Monday in May each year has a diverse history. Decoration Day is most often believed to have originated in Waterloo, NY just after the Civil War by a town druggist who was very sympathetic to the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in that long and brutal struggle. It had no name in the beginning but became known as Decoration Day due to the activities that citizens conducted. To honor the fallen, the druggist promoted placing flags or other forms of markers at the foot of all soldiers’ graves in the town of Waterloo. Very soon thereafter the word spread throughout the North and South and other town groups set-up their own forms of remembrances. As understandable signs of pride, cities and towns in both the North and the South claimed in 1886 to be the birthplace of what ultimately became Memorial Day.
Flags were soon accompanied by flowers being placed at grave sites throughout the Country. Somber marches were also encouraged in many towns. They could hardly have been termed as celebrations. According to a number of similar historical accounts, the dates of such remembrances varied from town to town but were most often held in the spring, because most of the flowers were in bloom then and available for the marches.
The concept of honoring those who died in battles actually goes back to ancient times when the Greeks and Romans did so annually with grave markings, festivals and feasts.
It was not until after WW II that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all wars in defense of our freedoms in the United States of America.
Memorial Day became a Federal Holiday in 1971 although it was still referred to as Decoration Day in many places throughout the Country.
On this Memorial Day, the Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers team – www.dvic.us joins so many others in honoring all fallen heroes who have served our great Country.
By Phil Tuccy – DVIC Strategic Board Member