Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. 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. – Department of Veterans Affairs

Featured image of a U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, of Jackson Springs, N.C., during a dignified transfer Aug. 4, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. A solemn dignified transfer of remains is conducted upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, from the aircraft to a transfer vehicle to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country. U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik

U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris

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