Memorial Day is observed each year on the last Monday of May, but how much do you really know about this holiday? Here are ten items that might surprise you about Memorial Day.
1) Traditionally, flags are flown at half mast until noon on Memorial Day, then at the top of the mast until sunset.
2) In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY the official birthplace of Memorial Day. One hundred years earlier, in May of 1866, a local pharmacist had begun the tradition of placing flowers on the graves of Union soldiers killed in the Civil War. Later the tradition was expanded to include all soldiers from all wars.
3) Originally, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. The name change happened organically around Work War I.
4) On the Thursday before Memorial Day, 1200 soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry place small American flags on each of the over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
5) Some southern states still also observe a Confederate Memorial Day.
6) Memorial Day 2015 is the 150 Anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II.
The known casualties for each US war since the Civil War include:
Civil War – 750,000 (Recently experts revised this number from 620,000.) More than all the other conflicts combined.
World War I – 116, 516
World War II – 405, 399
Korean – 36,574
Vietnam – 58,220
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm – 293
Operation Iraqi Freedom – 4422
Operation New Dawn – 66
Operation Enduring Freedom – 2357 (to 15 May 2015)
7) In 2000, Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton, signed the Moment of Remembrance Bill making it illegal to not pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to honor and remember those lost in war.
8) The tradition of wearing red poppies was inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field”. The flowers represent remembrance. For the full story behind the poppy and how the Ladies Auxiliary adopted this tradition, click on www.cal-mum.com/poppy.htm.
9) According to AAA, this year over 37.2 million drivers will be on American roads during Memorial Day weekend. That’s a 3% increase from 2014. The National average for the price of gas per gallon is $2.71.
10) The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates 71 million hot dogs will be consumed today. That’s 818 wieners per second. Over 7 billion dogs will be eaten between now and Labor Day.