Memorial Day dates back to the spring of 1865, the end of the Civil War. This war marks the most casualties in American history, which lead to the need and establishment of national cemeteries. The build-up that led to the national cemeteries were the number of mass graves used for soldiers that died from disease, exposure, and fighting. In May 1868, General John Logan encouraged families and communities to decorate the graves or towns with flowers to remember the 620,000 soldiers who died.
World War I, marked the next step in establishing the national holiday of remembering all those who have served and died for our country. World War I is also the origin of the Poppy flower symbolizing Memorial Day. Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was looking over the field where the bloody Second Battle of Ypres occurred, and poppy flowers had bloomed over the bodies of the fallen soldiers. Memorial Day has been celebrated since the end of the American Civil War; however, it was not declared a national holiday until 1971.
Wars America Has Been A Part Of:
- Civil War (1861-1865) – 620,000 dead
- World War I (1914-1918) – 116,708 dead
- World War II (1939-1945) – 407,316 dead
- Korean War (1950-1953) – 33,651 dead
- Vietnam War (1959-1975) – 58,168 dead
- Gulf War (1990-1991) – 382 dead
- War in Afghanistan (2001-Present) – 4,715 dead
- Iraq War (2003-2011) – 4,488 dead
“In Flanders Field”
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae