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A Brief History of Memorial Day (Weekend)

Did you know that Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day? Memorial Day didn’t become the official name of the holiday until 1967, shortly before passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act on June 28th, 1968. The law, which has proven controversial for many veterans groups, moved four holidays to new dates so that federal employees could have more three-day weekends. Yep. <strong>Civil War Roots</strong> It should be noted, though, that Decoration Day stirred controversy long before lawmakers pulled their calendar switcheroo. As a day of remembrance for those who had fallen during our Civil War, the North and the South naturally could not agree on a day to honor their respective heroes. In fact, many southern states still have separate days for honoring their Confederate dead. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas all celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day that does not come in May. <strong>Modern Memorial Day</strong> Many veterans have voiced concerns that the disagreement over when to pay respects – and even to whom respects should be paid – has led to a general sense of forgetfulness about what the holiday is supposed to mean. Rumor has it that pressure to act reached its pinnacle when a group of school kids told the Director of the White House Commission on Remembrance that Memorial Day was “the day the pool opens” during a visit to the Capitol. In response, a resolution called the “National Moment of Remembrance” was passed in 2000 to try and remind people of the holiday’s significance in addition to legislation to move the holiday back to its original date of May 30th. <strong>Our Dedication to Remembrance</strong> We haven’t forgotten what Memorial Day means or why it’s important to reflect quietly on what our fallen heroes have sacrificed. And, we also know they didn’t sacrifice it just so we could have a three-day weekend, no matter how many times our elected officials shuffle the calendar. There’s plenty of time in a day for enjoyment <em>and</em> reflection and we hope all of you get a little of both this Memorial Day weekend.
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