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Decoration Day parade, 1916
Decoration Day parade in Texas, 1916

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The First Official Memorial Day
May 30, 1868

Southern women decorated the graves of soldiers even before the end of the Civil War. After the war, a women's memorial association in Columbus, Mississippi, put flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in 1866, an act of generosity that inspired the poem by Francis Miles Finch, "The Blue and the Grey," published in the Atlantic Monthly. In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended it to honor all those who died in American wars. People pay tribute not only with flowers but also with speeches and parades. Whom do you honor on Memorial Day?
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