In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY, the birthplace of Memorial Day.
They did this because on May 5, 1866, the town held a service honoring veterans who had fought in the Civil War.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion."
What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.
Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, ceremonies were held on May 30 throughout the US, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations on how to properly observe the day at their facilities.
At the end of World War I, the observance was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.
The passing of “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” by Congress in December 2000 encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.
Let us pause today to honor and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.