Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to their country. The holiday was officially proclaimed in 1868 to honor Union and Confederate soldiers and was expanded after World War I to honor those who died in all wars. It became an official federal holiday in 1971, known as Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day. Today, Memorial Day honors over 1 million men and women who have died in military service since the Civil War began in 1861.
From The American Presidency Project, Proclamation 2889—Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day (1950): “Since war is the world's most terrible scourge, we should do all in our power to prevent its recurrence.
“It was the hope of mankind that with the cessation of hostilities of World War II the way would be open to founding a permanent peace. Instead, that war has left the world in a state of continued unrest. Accordingly, we feel the need of turning in humble suppliance to Almighty God for help and guidance.
“In recognition of this need, the Congress has fittingly provided, in a joint resolution which I approved on May 11, 1950, that Memorial Day, which has long been set aside for paying tribute to those who lost their lives in war, shall henceforth be dedicated also as a day for Nation-wide prayer for permanent peace. The Congress has also requested that the President issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day in that manner.”
This timeless infographic (created in 2013) compiles statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Defense to honor our men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. The Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center provides statistics on the number of people who served and died in each of our nation’s wars.
Note: The infographic above is the first of two pages. Click on the image for both pages.
From Census.gov / Topics / Population / Veterans:
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