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How the Civil War Changed Your Life

8 things to think about as we mark the conflict's 150th anniversary

Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday, May 31, 2010.

U.S. Army soldiers file past the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2010. — Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images

3. We begin summer with a tribute to fallen soldiers.

Ever wonder why we display flags and memorialize fallen solders just as summer gets under way? Flowers, that's why.

The first memorial days were group events organized in 1865 in both the South and North, by black and white, just a month after the war ended. Quickly evolving into an annual tradition, these "decoration days" were usually set for early summer, when the most flowers would be available to lay on headstones.

Decoration days helped the torn nation heal from its wounds. People told — and retold — their war stories, honored the feats of local heroes, reconciled with former foes.

After World War I, communities expanded the holiday to honor all who have died in military service, although the official national observance didn’t begin until 1971.

This year Memorial Day falls on May 30.

No matter where you are on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time.

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