“Since the founding of this country, servicemen and servicewomen have fought tirelessly to defend the rights and freedoms we hold dear. On May 30, 1868, our nation held its first Memorial Day celebration at Arlington National Cemetery, where then-Congressman and future president James A. Garfield honored the sacrifice of those who died while serving in the Civil War and children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home placed flowers on soldiers’ graves while reciting prayers and singing hymns. Just five years later, New York would be the first state to make Memorial Day a holiday, and in 1971, it would become an official federal holiday honoring those who have died in all American wars. Today, Arlington National Cemetery still celebrates this important holiday, where a small American flag is placed on the grave of each soldier and a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Today, many of us celebrate Memorial Day by attending barbecues or taking part in local parades, but we must never forget what this holiday represents. This day is meant to honor the memory of the U.S. service members who gave their lives for their country, paying the ultimate price to protect our way of life. Memorial Day is far more than a day to celebrate the beginning of summer, and I hope that you will join me in paying tribute to these American heroes.”