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Why We Celebrate Memorial Day in the United States

On Monday, May 30, the United States celebrates Memorial Day.  Americans have celebrated Memorial Day on May 30 for decades, but in 1971, the U. S. Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May and a federal holiday.

In fact, this holiday began as Decoration Day, which described the decoration of graves with flowers, wreathes and other remembrances of those lost to war. After WWII, Decoration Day gradually transitioned to Memorial Day with the official federal law in place in 1967.  

From U.S. Civil War Days
Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865). Some 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War — making it the deadliest war in American history. 

If you read the history of this holiday, you will find that women in Gettysburg, Penn. laid flowers on the graves of those who died in Gettysburg, shortly after the battle in 1864. The next year, women in Vicksburg, Miss. did the same for soldiers who had lost their lives. Then, in 1866, women in Columbus, Miss. honored both Union and Confederate dead by placing flowers on their graves.

Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, a Union hero, issued an order in 1868 setting May 30 as the day to honor those who died in the Civil War.

The National Moment of Remembrance
President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on Dec. 28, 2000, designating 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance.

About 644,000 Americans have died in other conflicts since the Civil War. Many HIMSS members and HIMSS staff members, and members of their families, have served over the decades as members of the U.S. military. We honor them on this Memorial Day as well.

Red poppies represent a symbol of remembrance, and it is a tradition to wear them to honor those who died in war. On Monday at 3 p.m., please take a moment to remember those who have served and those who have died to defend our country.