One of the most enduring traditions of Memorial Day is the decoration of the graves of fallen service members with such items as flowers and American flags. This annual day of commemoration was at one time referred to as Decoration Day because of this practice.
My grandmother grew up in the deep South, where tradition held that you took an annual pilgrimage to your family cemetery, which in their case required a road trip to southern Arkansas, to clean and decorate the graves of all of your ancestors. This tradition may have inspired the post Civil War movement to decorate the graves of those who died in military service. While the holiday was referred to as both Decoration Day and Memorial Day for decades, Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971 and is now celebrated on the last Monday in May.
Gestures of respect and commemoration on Memorial Day are made in acts both small and large, personal and ceremonial. Gratitude for the sacrifice and service of millions of American men and women takes place in all parts of the world, in countries where service members fell fighting as well as at memorials in the United States. Journey to the graves in Arlington National Cemetery, in small rural cemeteries and in foreign lands, and travel to battlefields and memorials where many are named and remembered through the images below.
- Read past posts about Memorial Day from various blogs of the Library of Congress, collected in Remembering Our Honored Dead: A Memorial Day Round Up from Teaching with the Library of Congress, including a post from Picture This: From Decoration Day to Memorial Day.
- View additional images on the subject of Memorial Day and related to Decoration Day in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.
- View photographs of Arlington National Cemetery over the years.
- The Library of Congress is commemorating Memorial Day with an open house in the Main Reading Room. Prints & Photographs Division and staff of other research centers will be on hand to highlight our collections and services. If you’re in Washington, D.C., this Memorial Day, please join us!
My last known relative that died in war was my great-uncle Peter Schlick who was killed in action in France in WWI. Prior to that family was lost on both sides during the Civil War.
What an honor to have family serve in every war and conflict and we humbly pay service to those who gave their lives.
My life would have been different had my father’s destroyer been hit by Kamikazes as his ship was in most of the major battles of the South Pacific. He developed a tic that remained with him the rest of his life. I can’t imagine the fear of fighting and possibility of losing one’s life but we should always be grateful for them as we wouldn’t be the safest and freest nation in the world.
May God bless all our vets especially our fallen this Memorial Day.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th, 2018. We will recall our fallen heroes sacrifice for our country. Those that fought and died for freedom’s cause never to look back or retreat from their duties. Many of those in WWI and WWII are interred overseas. Military cemeteries from Manila to France will also observe Memorial Day. Veterans and families will fill our cemeteries pay respects, decorate graves and reflect. Small U.S. Flags will be placed next to many gravestones. The short version:
Bivouac Of The Dead By Theodore O’Hara
The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat The soldier’s last tattoo; No more on Life’s parade shall meet That brave and fallen few. On fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread, And glory guards, with solemn round The bivouac of the dead. No rumor of the foe’s advance Now swells upon the wind; Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts Of loved ones left behind; No vision of the morrow’s strife The warrior’s dreams alarms; No braying horn or screaming fife At dawn shall call to arms.
Never forget our fallen soldiers that died to protect our “Constitution” ,our country and protecting ” We the people’s” Republic democracy and traveled to foreign countries to try to give other countries their freedom,as well.
I have enjoyed writing “Legacy Stories” for each Memorial Day about my relatives who served in the military forces and then emailed them to my children and grandchildren so they won’t forget the sacrafices made in defence of our country. The saddest part is not always that they died during war, but lived through the after effects of surviving such tragedies.