This Monday, May 30, marks Memorial Day, which honors the men and women who have died in wars to protect American liberty or in service to their country.
Memorial Day History and Meaning
Originally called "Decoration Day," Memorial Day was first observed to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation, and eventually the day expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.
In 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo was reportedly chosen because it hosted an "annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags."
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.
In 2015, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring Memorial Day as a "Day of Prayer."
Memorial Day Celebrations and Traditions
Americans have historically celebrated this occasion by placing American flags or flowers on the gravesites of loved ones and those buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and American flags are to be set at half-staff on this day until noon to symbolize mourning for those who have died serving our country. Later, the flags are raised to full-staff to remind Americans to continue the fight to uphold the freedoms that we have been given.
Many cities also celebrate those who have served our country with parades, barbeques, fireworks, and other patriotic events. The parades often incorporate military personnel and members of veterans' organizations.
Memorial Day Bible Verses
On this special day, we honor those who lost their lives so that we could enjoy life, peace, justice, and the freedom to enjoy the blessings given us by God. This Memorial Day, reflect on these Bible verses honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
Philippians 2:3-4: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."
Psalm 34:18: "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit."
I Thessalonians 4:13-14: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."
Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever."