As a nation founded on the ideals of democracy and personal freedoms, the United States has been involved in conflicts to defend these rights both at home and abroad. During these conflicts, Americans, soldier and civilian alike, looked to the flag as an icon of hope and embodiment of the American ideals of justice and liberty. With each conflict the American flag’s significance grew. During the Revolutionary War, the flag served mainly as a banner; since the Civil War, the flag has stood as an emblem of strength and unity; and World War II solidified it as a symbol of freedom.
In 1866, Waterloo, New York, celebrated a ‘Memorial Day’ to remember and honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. This event marked the first recorded Memorial Day and Waterloo is considered the birthplace of this national day of remembrance. Each year on Memorial Day, now a federal holiday, Americans remember those who have died serving the nation with activities festooned with American flags.
On May 30, 1991, the 125th anniversary of the first ‘memorial day,’ the United States Postal Service issued the Flags On Parade stamp to commemorate the birth of Memorial Day. Stamps depicting flags had been popular, so the designers of the stamp chose to portray the flag in a new manner. The choice was made to depict three flags rippling in the wind. The design was then modified to show the three flags as if they were passing in a parade, snapping to attention. Though there is no specific anniversary linkage marked on the stamp itself, the Postmaster General felt it a fitting tribute to Memorial Day by having the first day ceremony and postmark at Waterloo.