Today’s honoring of the war dead was originally called “Decoration Day”, which was established in 1868 by an organization of Union veterans called the “Grand Army of the Republic”. The idea was to decorate the graves of those who perished in the war. May 30th was chosen for the occasion because that’s when most of the country’s flowers were in bloom.
Arlington National Cemetery hosted the first large observance that year with Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses Grant presiding over the ceremony.
It wasn’t until after World War I that officials decided the day should honor all those who died in American wars, and finally in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a National Holiday.
Approximately 1.3 million soldiers have died in American wars since 1775 with the Civil War accounting for almost half of those casualties. That time frame spans 248 years.
To put those numbers into perspective, it’s estimated that around the same number of Americans (1.1 million) have died from COVID 19 since the pandemic started 3 years ago.