I believe Union General William T. Sherman is credited with saying, "War is Hell!!" and I reckon he would know. War is never a pleasant subject and when you talk about all the people who have died in those wars, the subject is even more unpleasant.
In 1866, "Henry Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, suggested that all the shops in town close for one day to honor the soldiers who were buried in the Waterloo cemetery. On the morning of May 5, the townspeople placed flowers, wreaths and crosses on the graves of the Northern soldiers in the cemetery. At about the same time, General Jonathan Logan planned another ceremony, this time for the soldiers who survived the war. He led the veterans through town to the cemetery to decorate their comrades' graves with flags." Since they were putting decorations of the graves, the day naturally became Decoration Day.
In 1868, the two ceremonies were joined and the Northern states started observing Decoration Day on May 30. The Confederate States, however, decided to observe it on the fourth Monday of April.
In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and was intended to honor all the dead from all the wars Americans have fought in. Since 1950, Congress has designated Memorial Day as a day when there should be prayers for peace. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a national (and federal) holiday and designated it to be on the last Monday in May.
Confederate Memorial Day is still observed on the fourth Monday of April in Alabama, the last Monday in April in Mississippi, and April 26th in Florida and Georgia.
Memorial Day has become a day when we honor more than just our war dead, we honor our loved ones as well. "Church services, visits to the cemetery, flowers on graves, or even silent tribute mark the day with dignity and solemnity."
(Sources used: Memorial Day Letter, U.S. Holidays, Memorial Day)
In honor of all the nurses who served in the wars
American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)
War of 1812 (1812 - 1814)
Chart of Key Events of the War of 1812
Spanish - American War (1898)
Phillipine - American War (1899 - 1902)
World War I (1914 - 1918)
World War II (1939 - 1945)
Korean War (1950 - 1953)
Vietman War (1961 - 1975)
Persian Gulf War