The holiday that we know as Memorial Day, dates back to the time shortly after the Civil War. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed the first major Memorial Day on May 30, 1868 to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers.
On that first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried in the cemetery.
The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War. It is now believed that Waterloo, NY was the first community to observe Memorial Day in 1866, when businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
By the late 19th century, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and after World War I, observers began to honor the dead of all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
There are several observances planned locally:
Village of Maybrook
The annual parade will step off at 9 a.m. from Frederick Myers Veterans Memorial Park. Marchers will proceed down Tower Avenue to Main Street, then to Homestead Avenue back to the park. A short service will follow in the park.
Town of Montgomery
On Sunday, May 30 at 1 p.m., a Memorial Day Ceremony will take place at Montgomery Town Hall on Bracken Road. There will be a short parade and presentation. Refreshments will follow.
Village of Montgomery
The Village of Montgomery Memorial Day Parade will begin Monday at 11 a.m. (Line-up on Wallkill Ave. at 10:30 a.m.) All Veterans are welcome and encouraged to join the parade. A ceremony will follow at Veteran’s Memorial Park.
Hamlet of Pine Bush
The 75th Memorial Day Parade will take place on Monday, May 30, with marchers stepping off at 9 a.m. from the Crispell Middle School. The parade is sponsored by Pine Bush American Legion Post 1308, the Catholic War Veterans Post 1937, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5492.
Village of Walden
The Walden American Legion Post 158 in conjunction with the Walden Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2946 look forward to co-sponsoring the annual Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 30. The parade will form at the west end of Veteran’s Memorial Bridge at 9:30 a.m. with step off tentatively at 10 a.m.
The parade will proceed across the bridge up West Main Street to Walnut Street turn right onto Walnut Street and proceed to the platform in Municipal Square where a formal program will take place. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the 3rd floor Bradley Assembly Room of the Walden Municipal Building.
Hamlet of Wallkill
A Memorial Day service will take place on Monday, May 30 at 12 noon on the lawn in front of the Wallkill Library. The high school band will perform, followed by wreath-laying ceremony and speakers.