Memorial Day is an annual holiday that falls on the last Monday in May. It is observed nationwide to honor those who served in the Armed Forces, with an emphasis on the deceased.
Originally observed in the nineteenth century, the holiday is known for its parades, barbeques, the Rolling Thunder journey to the Washington, D.C., area, and special shopping deals.
Here are five interesting facts about the origins of the holiday, including how it is observed, and how some overseas choose to never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day's origins go back to just after the American Civil War, as an observance known as "Decoration Day," where people would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers on May 30.
It was also specifically focused on Union dead, as it was originally organized by the veterans group the Grand Army of the Republic. The first observance was held in 1868.
"After speeches, children from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns," explained the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As a result, for a time the holiday was not observed in the South. Rather, the former secessionists held their own "Confederate Memorial Day" observances.
"At the outset, Memorial Day was so closely linked with the Union cause that many Southern states refused to celebrate it," noted Time Magazine in 2009.
"Most Southern states still recognize Confederate Memorial Day as an official holiday, and many celebrate it on the June birthday of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy."
In the modern day, Memorial Day falls on the last Monday of May, making its specific placement on the calendar vary from year to year.
However, originally the holiday fell on May 30 every year, in keeping with the date used for the very first observance in 1868.
"But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday," explained History.com.
Every Memorial Day, large numbers of motorcyclists make the journey to the Washington, D.C., area, with an emphasis on the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials.
With a participation rate estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, Rolling Thunder's primary purpose is to raise awareness about soldiers who remain listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.
And each year, Washington National Cathedral holds a "Blessing of the Bikes" a few days before Memorial Day Monday.
Ruth Frey, director of programs at Washington National Cathedral, told The Christian Post in 2015 that "Rolling Thunder's presence at the Cathedral reminds us all we cannot fully recognize and honor the living without also remembering those who have been lost."
"This event with Rolling Thunder is part of the Cathedral's ongoing initiative to recognize and pay tribute to veterans, to offer a sacred space for spiritual healing, and to educate the civilian public about the experience of veterans and the challenges they and their families face when returning home," said Frey.
A common tradition for observing Memorial Day is the planting of flags. This includes those put at the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
Each year, one Alabama congregation plants over 6,800 miniature flags on their property in remembrance of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
Grace Place Church of Enterprise annually does this, with Pastor Donny Thrasher telling CP in an interview in 2014 that a major reason for the display was to "remind our congregation that freedom isn't free; that it often is paid for with the lives of our military."
" is our first year, but I can assure you it won't be the last. Our church really got behind this project; from paying for the flags to putting out the flags today," said Thrasher in 2014.
"Many of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan sponsored flags with donations and dozens of them were present today to put out the flags."
Memorial Day is not just observed in the United States, but also in the Netherlands where large numbers of American soldiers were laid to rest after being killed during World War II.
An organization oversees and cares for the over 8,301 graves of American soldiers who fought to liberate the Low Countries from German occupation.
"The Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery in Margraten offers the opportunity of adopting a grave of a fallen liberator or a name on the Walls of the Missing," noted the organization's website.
"The foundation also maintains the so-called Adoption Register, an extensive database with information about adopters and the graves they've adopted."
Their work in preserving the graves has garnered much praise. As The Washington Post put it, "Americans gave their lives to defeat the Nazis. The Dutch have never forgotten."