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They Died For Their Country
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sightsandsounds

To me, Memorial Day has always been celebrated in the light it was intended; to honor those service men and women who have died for our country. Additionally, the day grew especially poignant when my maternal Grandfather, Dr. William G. Husband, a World War II veteran, died on Memorial Day, 1995.

Kelli O'Hara
Performer, National Memorial Day Concert

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MEANING & HISTORY

Performers on the 2011 “National Memorial Day Concert” share their experiences of what it is like to appear at the event.

A Day of Reflection

A Brief History of Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.

During the first national celebration, 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 who were buried there. This event was inspired by local observances of the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three years after the Civil War. By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities observed Memorial Day, and after World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all America’s wars.

Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

When is Memorial Day?

Soldiers overlook crowdIn 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday of May. Several southern states, however, have an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas; April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise discuss the meaning of Memorial Day.


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