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.