Photos: Routt County's fallen soldiers remembered
64 locals who died fighting for their country were remembered in a Memorial Day Ceremony in Steamboat Springs
Members of the Steamboat Springs American Legion Post 44, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4264, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, Civil Air Patrol and members of the Routt County Community remember veterans killed fighting for their country on Memorial Day, May 29. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)
Since 1922, the Steamboat Springs American Legion Post 44 has held a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Steamboat Springs Cemetery and the tradition continued this year for its 101st year.
Routt County has 64 veterans that died for their country — 21 service members who died in World War I, 36 who died in World War II, four killed in the Korean War, two killed in the Vietnam War and one killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day and was created by an organization of Union veterans known as the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868, just over three years after the end of the Civil War.
This first official ceremony was presided over by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and included children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home placing flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.
The day was meant to remember a staggering number of Americans who died — nearly 2% of the country’s population.
There were local celebrations occurring before that though, with the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum noting that formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina celebrated on of the earliest memorial days less than a month after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, another early celebration occurred in April 1866 when a group of women paid tribute to the graves of Confederate soldiers in Columbus, Mississippi who had died in the battle of Shiloh. Other places claim to be the origination of the then Decoration Day as well, including Macon, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois.
Waterloo, New York claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day and that was declared by Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, a century after the first ceremony there. In 1971 Memorial Day was made an official National Holiday.
What do we remember on Memorial Day?
The earliest Decoration Days were meant to celebrate those who had died in the Civil War, but that changed after World War I when the day was extended to remember American military personnel who died in all wars.
Veteran’s Day is celebrated then because it marks an armistice of World War I, which was reached at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
In 1919, Nov. 11 was declared the first Armistice Day, and was meant to be a day that the North and South could celebrate together, as the then Decoration Day was still largely divided between the North and South. It was renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954.
Memorial Day is often celebrated similarly to Veteran’s Day, but the two days have slightly different purposes. Memorial Day is for remembering Americans who died while Veteran’s Day is for all veterans.