Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. General Order Number 11 was issued by Major General John Logan of Murphysboro, IL on May 5, 1868. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated 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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” He picked that date since no major battle was fought during the American Civil War on that date. It is believed that the date was also important since flowers would be in bloom all over the US and would be available to decorate the graves.
All of the Northern States observed the day by 1890, but the Southern States refused since it referred to the Northern service men. It wasn't until after WW I and the Order was changed to recognize all who died in the service of the country that the Southern States recognized the day. They also have a day of remembrance for Confederate Soldiers who gave their all.
During WW I, as a result of a poem about Flanders Field and all those who died there among the poppy flowers in the area, poppies started to be sold to honor those who died. The VFW started selling them in 1922 and proceeds were given to help veterans.
I remember Decoration Day as a young child and also selling poppies. I don't think I ever sold more than a couple dollars worth and when I ran out of the artificial poppies, I took the money down to the local VFW Hall.
Later I helped my father deliver flowers to decorate graves . He was helping out a local florist and since he had a carryall, he could haul large batches of the flowers. My job was to find the graves and place the flowers on them. We did this at cemeteries in the southern half of the county where we lived. I learned a lot about cemeteries doing this. Little did I realize this early training would be an asset later in life when I began doing genealogical research.
Now, the last Monday in May is the official date to remember Memorial Day and it's become a three day holiday weekend and kicks off the summer camping season. I wonder how many people today understand the meaning of the holiday? We continue to buy poppies from volunteers selling them.
Thanks to all our Veterans who served our country and helped keep us free.