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Text Illustrations
Henry Welles had an idea more than a century ago, an idea we still abide by today. In 1866, the United States had just emerged from a terrible and bloody civil war between our Northern and Southern states. Henry, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard stories about our crippled and maimed surviving soldiers and suggested closing all the shops in town for one day to honor the soldiers who had been killed during that war. A retired major general, Jonathan Logan, had a similar idea at about the same time. His idea was to honor the soldiers who survived. He led the veteran through the town to the cemetery where they decorated the graves of their fallen comrades with flags. This memorial ceremony was called “Decoration Day” by the townsfolk.


Two years later, both Welles’ and Logan’s ceremonies were joined, and May 30 became the day for commemorating our soldiers from the Civil War. In 1882, the commemoration included soldiers from all previous wars, and the name was changed to Memorial Day.


Ninety-nine years later, in 1971, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May.


Most Americans today recognize Memorial Day as the official start of the Summer Season. An overwhelming majority of American worker have the day off. Yet, according to a Gallup poll, only 28 percent of Americans know the true meaning of Memorial Day. Many get it confused with Veterans Day, a holiday that celebrates our living service members and veterans. Three out of four Americans have no clue about why they have a barbecue scheduled this weekend.