For many people, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. We dress up in our favorite red, white and blue outfits, get together with friends for grill some food on the BBQ and enjoying the extra day off. It's become a joyful celebration but that is not how this holiday started.

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The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865 and it claimed over 620,000 soldier's lives, it lead to the establishment of the country's first national cemeteries. Americans began to  decorate the graves to honor the soldiers that lost their lives.

Original Name For Memorial Day

On May 5th, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day as a time to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Flowers were put on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers and James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery.

Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30th.He choose that date because flowers would be in bloom all over the country, regardless of the state you lived in...Alaska wasn't a state back then.

Why Is Memorial Day Celebrated On The Last Monday in May

After World War I, the day expanded to include everyone that had died in all American wars. Memorial Day was still observed on May 30th but in 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as an official federal holiday.

Congress decided to officially celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. By turning it into a long weekend, many feel that it has detracted from the spirit of the holiday.

The VFW once stated that "Changing the date to make a three-day weekend has undermined the very meaning of the day. This has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.

So I hope you'll take some time over the Memorial Day weekend to remember what the holiday formerly called "Decoration Day" is really all about. Every year, I honor one of my best friends, John Priestner, who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Iraqi Freedom.

Federal guidelines indicate that flags on Memorial Day should be flown at half staff...but only until noon. That's when they should be swiftly raised to the top of the pole until sunset. This a time honored tradition of paying tribute to America's fallen soldiers.

There's also an official time to remember the lost each year on Memorial Day. The official National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. around the country.

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