In 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, Commander John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic designated May 30 as a day to honor those who had died in defense of their country. Issuing General Order No. 11, Logan called upon those who survived to decorate their comrades’ graves with the “choicest flowers of springtime” and arrange “fitting services and testimonials of respect” throughout the country.
Although local tributes had previously been held in various towns, the first large national observance of Memorial Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery May 30, 1868. Congress would later recognize Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace of the Memorial Day tradition, as noted by President Lyndon Johnson in his 1966 Memorial Day Proclamation. For further details on this historical background, see Memorial Day History, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a Joint Resolution “requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace.” Public Law 512. With the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, effective January 1, 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as a legal public holiday to be observed the last Monday in May.
36 U.S. Code § 116 provides that the President will issue a proclamation each year:
(1) calling on the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace;
(2) designating a period of time on Memorial Day during which the people may unite in prayer for a permanent peace;
. . . .
The National Moment of Remembrance Act, passed by resolution of Congress in May 2000 (Public Law 106-579), established a new Memorial Day tradition. This Act calls upon Americans to pause for a minute of silence–beginning at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day each year–to honor those who gave their lives serving our country. Setting out to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event” intended, the Act also established the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, charged with promoting awareness, encouraging state and local participation, and coordinating national commemorations.
In accordance with law and custom, President Barack Obama will soon issue his 2016 Memorial Day Proclamation. In Kansas and across the nation, the National Cemeteries will observe the day with ceremony, honoring all who have died in service to this country. As citizens gather with reverence and patriotism, they will pass on these Memorial Day traditions and so preserve the heritage of Memorial Day for future generations.
- National Cemetery Administration Memorial Day 2016 Ceremonies
- Map and Listing of Veterans Cemeteries (National and State)
- National Cemeteries of Kansas