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A History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.


The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.  By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

Did You Know?  Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.


On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.  On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.


Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Memorial Day 2017 occurs on May 29; Memorial Day 2018 falls on May 28.


Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.



Greenway Student Highlight— Sidney Smith

What is your name and age?                                                   When did you join Elite MMA?

Sidney Smith - 26                                                                                   September 2016 

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

I joined Elite MMA with the sole intention of losing weight through the cardio kickboxing classes. I liked the idea of learning a skill that would benefit me in life, but didn’t really understand the true value of martial arts training. It wasn’t long before my perception was changed and my passion for the arts developed.

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

It just wasn’t something I was very familiar with. I saw people on TV getting their faces smashed in and in my mind, that was “martial arts” and I didn’t want that. It was just a lack of knowledge around the sport. 

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

I did karate for 4 months in kindergarten, so you could say I came into Elite with a pretty strong martial arts background! Just kidding, of course – yes, this is my first time doing any martial arts training. I attend most of the classes – kkb, kickboxing fundamentals, bjj, bjj endurance, and fight fit. I train for about 3 hours a day, 5-6 days a week and love every second of it. Some people say I have no balance in my life…oh well :-) 

If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

The 1 year contract threw me off. However, Mitch helped me see the benefits of committing to something and I knew it was the only way to get the results I was looking for. 

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

Through countless hours of blood, sweat, tears, and many many bruises, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. Martial arts has helped reshape my body, mind, heart, and spirit into someone I am proud to be - someone with confidence, compassion, humility, empowerment, and overall self-worth. In addition to the mental growth I’ve experienced, I’ve also accomplished a few personal and professional goals: Hit 156 classes in 1 quarter (goal was 150 – 50 classes a month), lost 20 pounds and 3 pant sizes, moved up at work, prepped for my first BJJ tournament (May13), and so much more! I’m excited about my journey with Elite MMA and look forward to what’s to come :-) 

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

DO IT! If you really commit and take the coaching provided by the awesome instructors, you are guaranteed to see great change in your life!




Baytown Instructor Highlight: Robert Yamashita

Birth place: Riverside, California

Profession: Elite MMA General Manager and Head Instructor, Baytown Location

What classes do you teach: Kickboxing, Kids/Teens BJJ, Adult BJJMMA

What martial art(s) have trained in: 
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – 2005-present                                   Okinawan Goju Ryu - 1996-present
American freestyle karate - 1993-1996        Kickboxing – 2000-present 

Number of years of training martial arts: I started karate when I was nine at my step father’s dojo and I have been training ever since. He found out about BJJ in 2004 from some friends and when he started to roll I started to roll.

When did you start teaching at Elite MMA? Elite bought tks martial arts in Baytown in 2008. I had been teaching solely at the facility and am now a part of Elite MMA. 

What is a memorable moment for you at Elite MMA? The most memorable moment so far has to be when I received my black belt. I achieved a milestone that many don't make it too. But I am committed to helping every one of my students get there!

In your own words why do you enjoy Elite MMA? Elite is where I want to be all the time. Whether it's cleaning the place up or running errands or teaching a class. I just love to be up there with all my friends. They are pretty much my second family. The community that has been created is very unique. We push, pull and empower each other to do things that are very hard to achieve without support of each other.


Do you have any martial arts accomplishments that you are proud of and why? Every time I compete and win I feel like I am proud to train with everybody at Elite. They help get me to a level that I couldn't reach by myself. And I am very thankful of everyone there. 

Any sports/activities that you participated in that you are proud of? I played football and basketball when I was in junior high but by high school I focused solely on karate. 

What hobbies do you enjoy and why? I love spending time with my wife, Marisol and our family. I also like to hang out with the guys from the gym whenever I can. See a movie or heading out to the malls. I also collect Shoyoroll gis and I'm obsessed!  

Any memorable family moments that you would like to share? I met my wife at Elite. We got married august 2010 in Las Vegas. I competed at the Las Vegas open and got married the next day. I thought it would be super stressful trying to fit everything in but it turned into the best time of my life so far. Lots of memories with family and close friends. Also the day all of my family started training jiu jitsu. Baby J, Cristian, Tori, Marisol, and Kai Kai! A family that trains together stays together!

Academic accomplishments: Associates degree in health science-radiologic technology 

If you could walk us through a day or week in your life what would it consist of? I start my day at 7am getting up with Kai to get him ready for school. Then I get to spend some time with my wife before our day starts. I get to the school around 10:30am to start following up with students and any potential students. Classes start at 11:15a/12p. After class, my team and I get some lunch and go over our schedule for the evening. We get our evening classes rocking at 5p and don't stop until 9p. After classes, I hang out to drill, train or talk with the students. We finish our nightly meeting around 10p, go home, take a shower and get ready to do it all over again. The weekends, I try to spend the most time I can with my family.


Kingwood Student Highlight—Kyle Lehnen

What is your name and age?

Kyle Lehnen age 20 

When did you join Elite MMA?

Late February 2016 

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

My weight was becoming an issue and I needed a healthy hobby instead of staying cooped up playing video games 

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

I never wanted to put in the time, I’d either want to be playing games or be out with friends. 

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

I took a previous Boxing class when I was 15 years old, and I am currently taking Kickboxing and Jiu-jitsu


If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

As joining any gym, you worry how the people you train and workout will be, but coming into Elite through someone I knew eased that process.

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

Since Joining Elite I have dropped 40+ pounds and have quit smoking cigarettes. Wanting to see improvement in my training gave me that motivation to stop smoking and try dieting.

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

To anyone considering improving their lifestyle, you have to put in the time, so enjoy yourself while you’re doing it, and to anyone looking into joining a gym, training does give you a purpose for being there, you not only see results in your body but also in your technique and form.



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