OLIVE BRANCH, MS (abc24.com) - We know what we celebrate on Memorial Day and why, but do you know how the holiday got its start, and when? It has deep ties right here in the South.
"It's a special day. Also it is a uniquely Mississippi occasion," say U.S. Senator Roger Wicker. You need to know Civil War history to understand what he means.
"A lot of people don't realize that Memorial Day was first Decoration Day and it was started in Columbus, Mississippi in 1866."
Wicker says one of many stories about the holiday's origin happened that year, "by the ladies that came out and decorated the cemetery. Of course it was right after the Civil War."
And they decorated the Union graves as well as Confederate ones.
"It was a great symbol of unity," Wicker recounts. "It was recognized by the New York newspapers as being a real important step in healing our nation."
Wicker shared the story with those at Olive Branch's first Memorial Day service.
"It's a wonderful history lesson," he tells abc24.com.
"That's history I wasn't aware of. It's awesome, just shows how Mississippians are," says Scott Phillips with Olive Branch Fire Department.
This holiday too, every veteran's grave at Blocker Cemetery was decorated. They read off each one's name, branch of service and war they served in.
"My uncle fought in World War 2. Just to be able to call his name was an honor for me," Phillips says. "To say thank you again for what they did."
Many served in Korea and World War 2. There are even a few veterans from the Civil War, reminding everyone of just how far back our country's sacrifices go, and for Wicker, that first Memorial Day.
"That decoration day in April 1866 in Columbus, Mississippi then became the Memorial Day we celebrate in all 50 states now."