The history of the holiday came from the History.com website and should be noted as it is not my original work.
Memorial Day: The Facts
America’s first national cemeteries were established after the Civil War ended in the spring of 1865. The town of Waterloo (New York) was the first to set aside a day in honor of those who made the greatest sacrifice. Tributes included decorating the graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. The date was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
“The 30th 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 churchyard in the land.” (Logan)
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” (Garfield)
In 1873, New York was the first state to designate the day as a legal holiday. Seventeen years later all the Northern states made Decoration Day an official holiday. Southern states honored their dead on different days until the end of World War I. At that time, the Day was no longer just to recognize those lost during the Civil War; it was now to honor all military personnel whose lives were taken in defense of our country.
In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Memorial Day would now be a federal holiday observed the last Monday in May (beginning in 1971). Arlington National Cemetery hosts an annual ceremony where the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A small American flag is placed on each grave.
Did You Know? Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.
Memorial Day: The Songs
Country music’s history of honoring our military dates back to Ernest Tubb‘s “Soldier’s Last Letter,” which spent four weeks at the top of the country chart in 1944.
“Go Rest High on That Mountain” – Vince Gill
“Angel Flight” – Radney Foste
“50,000 Names’” – George Jones
“More Than a Name on a Wall” – Statler Brothers
“American Soldier” –Toby Keith
“Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” Alan Jackson
“God Bless The USA” –Lee Greenwood
“Some Gave All” –Billy Ray Cyrus
“Chicken Fried” –Zac Brown Band
“8thof November” – Big & Rich”God Bless America” –Martina McBride
“If You’re Reading This” –Tim McGraw
“I Drive Your Truck” –Lee Brice
“For You” –Keith Urban
“Didn’t I” – Montgomery Gentry
“Just A Dream” – Carrie Underwood
“Soldiers and Jesus” – James Otto
“Letters From Home” – John Michael Montgomery
“Bumper of My SUV” – Chely Wright
“In America” – Charlie Daniels
“Ragged Old Flag” – Johnny Cash
“America, Why I Love Her” – John Wayne
“In God We Still Trust” – Diamond Rio
“Where The Stars & Stripes and the Eagle Fly” – Aaron Tippin
“Courtesy Of The Red, White, and Blue” – Toby Keith
“Only In America” – Brooks & Dunn