(KTXL) — Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer for many Americans, but it is one of the United States earliest holidays to honor those men and women who died while in service.
On May 5, 1868, following the end of the Civil War, a collection of Union veterans created Decoration Day as a time for people to decorate the graves of those who were killed in combat with flowers, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
This date was moved to May 30 by Grand Army of the Republic Major General John A. Logan as he believed that flowers across the nation would all be in bloom, according to the VA.
Arlington National Ceremony hosted the first large observance in 1868 with flowers being placed on both Union and Confederate graves and presided over by General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, according to the VA.
For over a century the point of origination of the holiday was debated between the states.
It was not until 1966 that Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day, according to the VA.
Previous locations were not considered as they were informal, not community-wide or were one-time events, according to the VA.
Memorial Day did was not made an official national holiday until the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act on June 27, 1968 by Congress and President Johnson which made it the last Monday in May.
“The bill that we sign today will help Americans to enjoy more fully the country that is their magnificent heritage,” Johnson said.
However by World War I the holiday had expanded from those killed in the Civil War to any American soldier killed in during any war.
According to the United States Memorial Commission, Memorial Day ceremonies were held in temporary cemeteries throughout France during World War I and World War II where flowers and flags were placed on the graves of the dead.
This year will mark 154 years of the United States honoring America’s fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.