It was 1866 and the United States was recovering from the long and bloody Civil War between the North and the South. Surviving soldiers came home, some with missing limbs, and all with stories to tell. Henry Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard the stories and had an idea. He suggested that all the shops in town close for one day to honor soldiers who were killed in the Civil War and were buried in the Waterloo cemetery. On the morning of May 5, the townspeople placed flowers, wreaths and crosses on the graves of the Northern soldiers in the cemetery. At about the same time, retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan planned another ceremony, this time for the soldiers who survived the war. He led the veterans through town to the cemetery to decorate their comrades’ graves with flags. It was not a happy celebration, but a memorial. The townspeople called it Decoration Day.
In 1868 the northern states commemorated the day on May 30. The southern states commemorated their war dead on different days. Children read poems and sang civil war-era songs and veterans came to school wearing their medals and uniforms to tell students about the Civil War. Then the veterans marched through their medals and uniforms to tell students about the Civil War. Then the veterans marched through their home towns followed by the townspeople to the cemetery. They decorated graves and took photographs of soldiers next to American flags. Rifles were shot in the air as a salute to the northern soldiers who had given their lives to keep the United States together.
In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and soldiers who had died in previous wars were honored as well. In the northern United States, it was designated a public holiday. In 1971, along with other holidays, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May.
Chapman Wealth Management salutes those who have died in the service of our country, those currently serving, and the families who have made great sacrifices for our freedom. We continue to live in the greatest country in the world. On this Memorial Day, take a few minutes to consider the blessings you have, celebrate the relationships in your life, both family and friends, and thank a veteran.
God Bless America!