The last Monday of May is set aside to remember those who answered the call of duty and laid down their lives in a service toward their fellow citizens.
Originally known as Decorations Day, mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
The federal government, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo–which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866–because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
“By the late 19th century, many…
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