Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Originally celebrated in the Northern states, Memorial Day honored the dead of the civil war, although the former Confederate States refused to accept this day until after the First World War, when the observance was extended to all those who died in all of the nation’s conflicts. Thus, what had been a symbol of division, became, as it should be, one of national reconciliation and unity.
I believe we should remember because their sacrifice helped preserve all that we enjoy. Furthermore, we should remember by following their examples, even in peacetime, and commit ourselves to building on their inheritance as the only authentic way of truly honoring them. In this new century, men and women still serve, suffer and die on behalf of our republic and of the constitution which is that republic’s heart and soul. By the conduct of our national life let us show that they do not do so in vain.
Here follows a prayer of thanksgiving found on page 839 of the Book of Common Prayer:
O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.