While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed to the growing movement that culminated in an official proclamation on 5 May 1868, by General John Logan.
It was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead.
Memorial Day inspired the poem "In Flanders Fields," by: Moina Michael. (excerpt):
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
In Flanders Fields has been set to music and I've heard it, and my family members have sung it, many times. It moves me nearly to tears each and every time.
I know I'm a day late, but I didn't want the meaning of the day to be lost. It's not about celebrating the Veterans who walk among us; though there's never a wrong time to thank or honor a Veteran, that would be Veterans Day.
Memorial Day is about those who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their only life here on earth to defend and protect the ideals of our nation and to follow the orders of its leaders, right or wrong, to the end of their days. It is a noble, selfless thing to do ~ but it should never be thankless.
I can wish and pray that this day was unnecessary, that we had no war and no war-dead but I would be fooling myself. I'm glad that we have a day to remember, to reflect and to stand witness to the inhumanities that cause such tragic ends and I vow to do what I can to promote peace in my time.
To the spirits of those who have fought and fell in the line of duty... I honor you and your memory. Thank you.