We Call it Memorial Day for a Reason

The American Financial Services Association and its members has long supported our nation’s military veterans, current servicemembers, and their families. It seems that with every passing year, the intent of Memorial Day becomes less apparent and important. And this year, with the pandemic, social distancing, and few of the usual events for us to gather as a nation to mark the solemnity of the day, it seems even more important to recall why Memorial Day is commemorated. 

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the late 1860s to help reconcile the Confederate and Union veterans after the Civil War. As a result of the death-toll from that war the United States established national cemeteries, and in the wake of the war people across the country started tributes to fallen soldiers in the springtime, reciting prayers and decorating the graves of the fallen with flowers.

On May 30th 1868 Decoration Day was declared a federal holiday, and after World War I the holiday gained greater support and participation across the country, so much so that in 1968 the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day and moved to the last Monday of the month of May.

While it seems we as a nation have been spending a lot of time with our families and loved ones lately in a cycle of “holidays,” perhaps let us use this particular day to remind ourselves and our families, especially young people, about why and for whom we celebrate this day. Generations of men and women have served and defended our country because they believed America and its founding principles worthy of their sacrifice. We owe the fallen, as well as all veterans and their families, our deepest respect and gratitude, and we share that appreciation with all of them today.