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Memorial Day Facts

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I am a bit of a news nerd.  I also like to remind people that Memorial Day isn’t just about BBQ’s and a day off!

Here’s some background information I found on Memorial Day from CNN.com, for all you other news nerds out there.

Don’t forget to thank those who have served our country.

1. It started with the Civil War: Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the North and South led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead.

2. General Logan made it official: Gen. Logan, the speaker at the Carbondale gathering, also was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. On May 5, 1868, he issued General Orders No. 11, which set aside May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion. . .

3. It was first known as Decoration Day: From the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn’t disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.

4. The holiday is a franchise: Calling Memorial Day a “national holiday” is a bit of a misnomer. While there are 11 “federal holidays” created by Congress — including Memorial Day — they apply only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia. Federal Memorial Day, established in 1888, allowed Civil War veterans, many of whom were drawing a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades with out being docked a day’s pay.

5. Vietnam vets go whole hog: On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2,500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C., for the first Rolling Thunder rally to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action or prisoners of war. By 2002, the numbers had swelled to 300,000 bikers, many of them veterans. There may have been a half-million participants in 2005 in what organizers bluntly call “a demonstration — not a parade.”

6. Memorial Day has its customs: General Orders No. 11 stated that “in this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed,” but over time several customs and symbols became associated with the holiday. It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.

7. There is still a grey Memorial Day: Several Southern states continue to set aside a day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.

8. Each Memorial Day is a little different: No question that Memorial Day is a solemn event. Still, don’t feel too guilty about doing something frivolous, like having barbecue, over the weekend. After all, you weren’t the one who instituted the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911.

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