Americans who gave their lives in military service are honored on Memorial Day – the last Monday in the month of May. At first, the holiday was called Decoration Day and honored those soldiers who had died during the Civil War.
Just after the war, towns in the North and South started to decorate soldiers’ graves with flags and flowers. One of the earliest memorial observances was held in Carbondale, Illinois.
On May 30th, 1868, General James Garfield (later our 20th U.S. President) gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery in remembrance of fallen soldiers. After the speech, some 5,000 people decorated the graves of over 20.000 Union and Confederate soldiers.
Over the years, Decoration Day became an occasion to remember the dead from all American wars, and was given a new name – Memorial Day.