Memorial Day is a time when those in the U.S. honor our veteran
war dead. It began three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, when 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. It was decided that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30, 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., with Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant presiding over the ceremonies.