Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966 but it is likely that it had many separate beginnings; spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to heal from a divisive time in our history.
Memorial Day was first officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Since the late 50’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.