On May 5, 1868, three years after the conclusion of the Civil War, veterans of the Grande Army of the Republic established Decoration Day. Survivors were encouraged to decorate the graves of those who had fallen in the conflict with flowers.
The tradition continued in many places across the country until Congress declared it a National Holiday in 1971.
When originally conceived, Decoration Day was a largely partisan affair with northerners decorating the graves of northern soldiers and southerners decorating the graves of southern soldiers.
According to the Veterans Affairs website, on April 25th, 1866 “a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.”
After World War I, the holiday was expanded to honor all of those who had fallen in service to their country.
It is important to remember that in death, all of us are equal. It is equally important to remember that the honor we do our fallen veterans is in recognition of their selfless service and that there should be no partisan reservations associated with that honor.