Photos: Memorial Day around the country

Photos: Memorial Day around the country

Credit: Getty Images

FAIRFIELD, CT - MAY 28: Area veterans participate in the annual Memorial Day Parade on May 28, 2012 in Fairfield, Connecticut. This years parade, one of the largest in the state, celebrated Vietnam Veterans. Across America towns and cities will be celebrating veterans of the United States Armed Forces and the sacrifices they have made. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in America and has been celebrated since the end of the Civil War. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


by Catherine Holland

Posted on May 28, 2012 at 8:11 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 29 at 2:54 PM

NATIONWIDE -- People are over the country are taking time today to remember and honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

Originally known as Decoration Day, this federal holiday was established after the American Civil War. It was first meant to remember the more than 360,000 Union soldiers killed during the Civil War, but later expanded to include all Americans killed in all wars.

Federal law officially changed the holiday's day to Memorial Day in 1967. On June 28, 1968, Memorial Day was moved from its traditional date of May 30 to the last Monday in May. That was part of the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved the observance of Memorial Day and three other holidays to Monday to create three-day weekends. That law took effect in 1971.

Not everybody agrees with Congress' decision to move the holiday, believing it "has undermined the very meaning of the day."

While officially a day to remember America's sons and daughters killed in battle, Memorial Day is also the unofficial kickoff to summer.

Americans killed in major wars

Civil War -- About 625,000

World War I -- 116,516

World War II - 405, 399

Korean War -- 36,516

Vietnam War -- 58,209

Afghanistan (ongoing) -- 1,893

Iraq 2003-2011 -- 4,484

Going back to the Revolutionary War in 1775, more than 1.3 million Americans have died in more than 70 different wars and conflicts. More than 38,000 were listed as missing.

Sources: Wikipedia and