Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer for many Americans, a holiday weekend filled with road trips, cook-outs and parades.
But even as we enjoy the warm temperatures and a three-day break from work, we also remember those who served and fought for our nation and who gave their lives in service. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic established the first widely recognized Memorial Day, known then as Declaration Day, on May 30, 1868. Logan wanted a day of remembrance for soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
New York became the first state to establish Memorial Day as a legal holiday in 1873. By the end of the 19th century, many cities and towns had adopted the practice as well, and after World War I it became a day to remember those who had died during all of America’s wars.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day an official federal holiday and passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that established the holiday as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees.
Here are some fun facts about Memorial Day to chew over with your backyard burgers:
1.3 million: Number of U.S. armed service members killed in conflict.
21.8 million: The number of living veterans (as of 2014).
260,000: Number of graves at Arlington National Cemetery. The graves are draped with American flags over the holiday.
97: Number of members of the 114th Congress who served in the U.S. military.
34 million: The number of people who will travel at least 50 miles this Memorial Day, the highest level since 2005 and up 2.1 percent from 2015.
89 percent: Portion of travelers who will drive to their holiday destination.
$2.32: Average price of gas in the U.S. AAA expects gas prices to be at their lowest level over the holiday since 2005.
62 percent: Percentage of people who plan on having a cook-out over the holiday.
7 billion: Total number of hotdogs that will be eaten.
2nd place: The holiday is the second most popular holiday for grilling outdoors, ranking only behind the Fourth of July.
1.5 million: Number of people who will watch the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington on television.
$50,000: Amount that companies pay to be four-star sponsors of the 2016 National Memorial Day Parade.
Number 1: Orlando, Florida, is the most popular destination for people traveling over the weekend. Myrtle Beach is second, followed by Washington, DC.
25 percent: The increase in cooking-related fires at home that happen on Memorial Day compared to an average day.
350,000: Number of motorists that AAA expects to rescue over the weekend. The leading problems are dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
50,500: Estimated number of injuries resulting from car crashes over the holiday weekend.
439: Estimated number of deaths from car accidents over Memorial Day weekend.
50,000: Estimated number of serious injuries from car accidents over this weekend.
495: Number of people who were arrested for drunk diving over the holiday weekend in 2014 – just in on state, Arizona.
6,800: Number of U.S. armed service members who have died during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least 52,000 have been wounded.
5,000: Average number of people who attend the ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery each year.
24: Number of notes in Taps, the bugle call that traditionally ends a military funeral.
3 pm: Time of the National Moment of Remembrance, designated in 2000 by Congress.
900,000+: Anticipated number of participants and spectators in Rolling Thunder, the annual motorcycle parade to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington over the holiday.
90: Number of state and local chapters of Rolling Thunder that participate in the weekend bike ride.