Memorial Day is often thought of as the beach season opening day. Being the first warmer, long weekend of the year, many of us take the opportunity to pull out the grill and invite some friends for a get-together. Malls have capitalized on this holiday with Memorial Day sales and promotions. However, none of that has anything to do with the initial intent and origin of Memorial Day.

The Origin of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, when first established in 1868, right after the Civil War, was known as a Decoration Day. The main purpose of this holiday was to decorate the graves of the men and women who paid the ultimate price for defending our freedoms. The Civil War was one of the most deadly conflicts we endured as a country. During those four years, we lost 620,000 American lives (498,332 official military personnel). This accounted for an unbelievable 2,385% of the entire US population. The nation was literally covered with hundreds of thousands of graves of soldiers. That heavy toll, and the sight of so many, almost forgotten, tombs of unknown soldiers, became the precursor to the tradition of decorating those graves. This is why the official Decoration Day, now known as a Memorial Day, came to be.

Some Conflicts Claimed More Lives

Between 1775-1783, the American Revolutionary War took 25,000 lives of independent patriots (4,435 of official military personnel). Colonies had a population of only 2.5 million. We lost almost 1% of our population in the war for our independence. Not long after, between 1861-1865, when our country had a population of 31 million, and the Civil War raged, we lost 620,000 American lives. World War I was the next large conflict. Between 1917-1918, in World War I, we endured 116,516 deaths. During the US involvement in World War II, which took place between 1941-1945, as much as 12% of US population served in the military, and we lost 405,399 souls. The 1950-1953 Korean War claimed 54,246 lives. The war in Vietnam, which dragged on between 1961-1975, took the lives of 90,220 Americans. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which started in 2001, already claimed 6,852 U.S deaths, and counting.

This Memorial Day, Let Us Decorate!

This Memorial Day, let us remember the true meaning of this holiday. Let us refresh our memories and be grateful for those 1,354, 664 souls who made our lives and freedoms possible by paying the ultimate price. Let us decorate their graves with a simple flower or a flag.

If you lost family members who served in the military, we honor their service. If you or your spouse served, we thank you both for your service. 

When we meet with friends and family during this long weekend, let us reminisce about the true meaning of Memorial Day, and its original name, Decoration Day. With our thoughts and deeds, let us honor the lives of those who served and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. 

If your aging loved one, a friend, or neighbor served in the military, it would be an immeasurable honor if you would offer to take them to a local veterans cemetery to decorate a grave of an unknown soldier. 

Here is a link to locate a local veterans cemetery.

We wish you and Grateful Memorial Day!

With love for the Elderly…

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