We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
~ Moina Michael
Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the Civil War, Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. Officially proclaimed on May 5th, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30th, 1868.
…Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan…
At that first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetary, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
After the First World War, and over time, it was extended to honor and remember all Americans who have died in our nation’s service.