James M. Lindsay keep the blog “The Waters Edge” at the Council of Foreign Relations website. For Memorial Day, he writes:
The United States has fought twelve major wars and numerous smaller skirmishes in its history. Memorial Day is our way of honoring the soldiers, sailors, airmen, airwomen, and marines who did not return home. The holiday dates back to the months immediately following the Civil War when a few towns and cities began honoring their dead. In 1868, General John A. Logan designated May 30 as “Decoration Day,” the purpose of which would be “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The holiday was renamed Memorial Day after World War I, and its purpose became to honor all Americans who have died fighting the nation’s wars.
Lindsay brief but effective sketches of four brave soldiers and sailors is worth reading.