Originally called Decoration Day, the Memorial Day holiday officially recognizes all who died as members of the U.S. armed forces.
It’s not to be confused with Veterans Day, which celebrates all who have served or are serving, living or dead.
Memorial Day had its beginnings at the end of the Civil War, when the North and South went about commemorating the dead who fell in what remains the bloodiest war in American history.
To put that in perspective, if you adjust those figures to the population in the U.S. today (315 million), it would translate into well more than 6 million dead and 11 million wounded.
One of the survivors of the Civil War was Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who, as a Union officer, was thrice wounded at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Antietam,and Chancellorsville, respectively. Holmes later became a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Holmes gave a Memorial Day speech on May 30, 1884, in Keene, N.H., where he concluded by saying:
“Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”
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