Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “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 proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). This helped ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
13 Folds in the Flag
The first fold of our Flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the
veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of
their lives for the defense of our
country to attain peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as
American citizens trusting, it is to Him we turn in
times of peace as well as in time of war for His
The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the
words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing
with other countries may she always be right; but it
is still our country, right or wrong."
The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is
with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America, and to the
Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for
it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our
country and our flag against all her enemies, whether
they be found within or without the boundaries of our
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered
into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might
see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it
flies on Mother's Day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has
been through their faith, their love, loyalty and
devotion that the character of the men and women who
have made this country great has been molded.
The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he,
too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense
of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen
represents the lower portion of the seal of King David
and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen,
represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in
their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
When the Flag is completely folded, the stars are
uppermost reminding us of our Nation's motto, "In God
We Trust." After the Flag is completely folded and
tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat,
ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under
General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines
who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were
followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed
Forces of the United States, preserving for us the
rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.
The next time you see a Flag ceremony honoring someone
that has served our country, either in the Armed
Forces or in our civilian services such as the Police
Force or Fire Department, keep in mind all the
important reasons behind each and every movement.
They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by
honoring our Flag and our Country.