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What is Memorial Day? | Paying Respects To Our Servicemen

May 28, 2021 4 min read

what is memorial day

For some, Memorial Day is a day off from work, school or other activities. 

For others, it's a day of respect and tribute to those who have lost their lives defending this country. 

No matter what it is to you - it's important to understand why it exists.

If you’re waking up this morning excited that you get the day off to roast some hotdogs with friends, let’s pause a moment to remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice to make sure you could enjoy life so grand.

In the spirt of remembering, we're going to answer what is memorial day with a bit of history and then leave you with five things you can do today to remember our fallen troops.

What is Memorial Day? - The Backstory

civil war cannon

We lost over 650,000 proud Americans who were both fighting for what they thought was right during the bloodiest war our country has ever endured - the Civil War.

When the Civil War finally came to a close in 1865, towns all across these now United States honored their fallen by placing flowers on the graves of soldiers and sailors in the spring.

That very next year in Waterloo, NY, the city decided to close all the stores in the town on May 5, 1866, so that everyone could help decorate these graves.

That following year, Ret. Gen. John A. Logan (for those of you that have visited DC may know him from his statue at Logan Circle) was the head of the Grand Army of the Republic which was like the Veterans of Foreign Wars fraternal organization that we know today, but for Union soldiers.

Logan unified “Decoration Day” to a single day and established it as May 30th.

He selected that day because it marked an unusual occurrence that no battle had been fought on that day during the Civil War.

Although it is unproven, many believe that his secondary reason for pushing back the date was to allow spring flowers to reach full bloom in the northern states so that they would be plentiful to cover all the graves of fallen soldiers.

fallen soldiers graves

He, along with 5,000 widows, a large crowd of volunteers and 2 future presidents, decorated the graves of over 20,000 of America’s fallen, both North and South, on May 30, 1868.

Fun fact -  Logan is one of only 33 people to have Lain in State at the rotunda of the Capitol Building.

Because of Logan’s northern allegiance, many southern states elected to celebrate their own Decoration Day honoring their southern troops.

It wasn’t until the First Great War (WWI) that the north and south together lost over 130,000 brothers and sisters in a foreign conflict.

After that time Decoration Day, now commonly referred to as Memorial Day, began to include a reverence for all fallen troops and not just those from the Civil War.

It took three more wars before the United States made Memorial Day as we know it, a National Holiday, and some might argue reduced its reverence by shifting it to the last Monday of May so that Federal Employees could have a three day holiday.

This new alignment with the first long weekend of the summer allowed for it’s now synonymous with bar-b-queing, boating, and the Indy-500.

5 Things To Do On Memorial Day

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC

Now that you understand the history of Memorial Day and what Memorial Day is, I've got a list of five things you can do on Memorial Day.

1. Fly a Flag

If you have a flagpole, current law reflects that the flag is flown at half-mast until noon to honor the fallen, then raised to topmast in honor of a grateful Nation.

2. Pause for a Moment

A law declares 3 pm in your local time to be a moment of silence to memorialize those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Maybe shut off the music at the cookout you are at for a brief pause.

Even if you find yourself mowing the lawn at that time, shut it down for a moment and listen to the silence.

That is the sound of America and the ultimate sacrifice.

3. Decorate a Cemetery

This is really how it all started with Decoration Day.

Spare a few moments to give your time to honor their sacrifice. I assure you the sacrifice you make will be less than theirs.

4. Go to Arlington

Okay this one takes some planning, but if you have never been – you need to! I can’t go there and not tear up. It will get you.

The President (Respect the Office here people no matter how you feel about the man) traditionally lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 3 pm.

5. Talk About It

For a moment in a conversation talk with your kids, grandkids, or whoever is tending the grille about the reverence of the day.

You don’t need to come off all high and mighty on it, but just gently bringing it to the forefront will provide a little bit of reverence the day demands.

If nothing else, just taking the time to read this is a small dedication to keeping the memory of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen alive.

Sharing the information will help ensure our next generation has the same reverence as we do.

So whether it’s talking about it or forwarding this email on, take a step today to share the real reason of Memorial Day with others.

How Valley Food Storage Is Doing Their Part

Here at VFS, we are all extremely respectful of the sacrifices made by men and women defending our country throughout history.

We understand that without their sacrifice - we wouldn't have the life we currently do in the United States. 

With that in mind, our traditional Memorial Day Sale begins today. 

Valley Food Storage Memorial Day Sale
With 15% off EVERYTHING, you won't get more bang for your buck anytime else.

If there's one thing we've learned from last year, it's that we need to be prepared for anything.

Self-reliance isn't a destination - it's a journey.

We hope that you take advantage of this incredible sale, as it's the best deal we can provide - especially with our Long Term Emergency Kits.

Otherwise - Happy Memorial Day!

Everyone at Valley Food Storage hopes you have a fun and safe holiday weekend!