Memorial Day 2011: Why we celebrate

“The 30th day 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 church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion. What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes?”
General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially established Memorial Day through proclamation of General Ordinance 11, on May 5, 1868. Originally called Decoration Day, the first observed Memorial Day was on May 30, 1868, and to commemorate the day, flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, and by 1890 all of the northern states recognized the holiday.
The southern states, however, refused to acknowledge Memorial Day. Instead, they chose to honor confederate soldiers on a different day. Today, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee celebrate a state-recognized Confederate Memorial Day (the observation of which differs from state to state).
After World War I, Memorial Day changed from honoring only the soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War to honoring American soldiers who have fought and died in any war domestic or foreign. Memorial Day is about unification and showing honor and respect for those who have given their all to protect the liberties we have in America.