This Monday, May 30th, we observe Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first National Cemeteries. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate all of the American military personnel who died in all wars.
It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated from; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo, which first celebrated Memorial Day on May 5th, was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. Since then many communities have followed in their example.
A Memorial Day tradition in Dallas, the Avenue of Flags ceremony will take place Monday at 11 am in Dallas Cemetery. In a joint effort of the Dallas American Legion Carl B. Fenton Post 20 and Auxiliary and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3203, the flag display around the cemetery will grow to more than 700 flags from the original 65 flags.
Raising the flag for the ceremony is Boy Scout Troop 288, and will include music from the Dallas High School choir and band as well as guest speaker Marie McCandless. Mayor Brian Dalton will provide the welcome for the hour-long presentation. We hope that we all take a time on Monday to remember those that have paid the ultimate price to protect this country, its citizens, and their rights.