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Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is a truly original American holiday meant to honor the individuals who have died while serving in the U.S. military.

How to observe Memorial Day

The traditional way to observe Memorial Day is to wear a red poppy to honor those who died serving the United States during any war. Some other ways to commemorate the holiday include the following:

  • At 3 p.m. local time, pause for a moment of silence or listen to taps.
  • Visit a local cemetery and place flags or flowers on the graves of fallen heroes.
  • Visit a veterans’ memorial.
  • Fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.

The History of Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, this tradition was a response to the U.S. Civil War. When the war ended in the spring of 1865, so many lives had been lost that it became necessary to establish the country’s first national cemeteries to honor fallen heroes. 

Many American flags flapping in the wind together on a national holiday-1Although the location of the official birthplace of Decoration Day is debated, many historians bestow the honor on the village of Waterloo, New York, which held the first recognized Decoration Day celebration on May 5, 1866.

On this date, residents celebrated by closing all businesses and decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Later, in 1868, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic — a fraternal organization of Union veterans— Gen. John A. Logan, issued General Order No. 11, which called for a national day of remembrance for the Civil War dead to be held annually on May 30.

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Logan chose the date because flowers would be in full bloom—especially in the southern states.

That same year, the holiday was officially celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C. for the first time by some 5,000 mourners who came to pay their respects by decorating the graves of Civil War veterans.

During World War I, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day and was expanded to commemorate any soldiers who died in the line of duty.

Then, in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act setting the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. This change went into effect in 1971 and also declared the last Monday in May a federal holiday.

At Hocking College, the staff and faculty are devoted to providing high-quality academic and student support services to veterans, active-duty service members, reservists, National Guard members and military families.

Hocking College is regionally accredited through the Higher Learning Commission, is a VA-approved training site, and is a participating institution under the U.S. Department of Defense Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This enables our Veterans and Military affiliated students to select from multiple service-connected funding sources. 

For more information, contact Stephen Powell, director of the Veterans and Military Student Services Center at one of the following:

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