Veterans organization credited with creating Memorial Day founded in Decatur

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DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — It's a somber day of remembrance lasting in different forms under different names for 150 years.

From Decoration Day in 1868 to Memorial Day today the principle remains the same. But the day rings with a little more historical meaning for Decatur city councilman Pat McDaniel.

"Decatur has the distinction of being the first city to have a veterans organization," he said.

That organization: the Grand Army or the Republic. The GAR formed in downtown Decatur in 1866. Two years later, Decoration Day was born, honoring fallen soldiers from the Civil War.

"The GAR was a very political organization," McDaniel said. "By the 1880s, there were over 500,000 GAR members plus their families."

The GAR is remembered in Decatur with a series of plaques and monuments, as well as a statue commemorating the Civil War veterans it initially sought to help.

"When people get older, they want to learn about the history of their country and about the historical background with their family," McDaniel said.

And that's a history he hopes will live on.

"We're very proud of our history and all of the firsts that have taken place in Decatur," McDaniel said.

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