Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, was originally established after the Civil War to commemorate the 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who died in battle.
Today, Memorial Day is held every year on the final Monday of May in remembrance for all who have died while serving in the Armed Forces. Although Memorial Day weekend has become synonymous with barbeques and camping, the original purpose of the day—to honor men and women who have died while serving our country—is still alive and well. There are many ways to celebrate Memorial Day in a meaningful way.
1) By visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes. Another tradition is to fly the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. If you have a flag pole, consider joining the tradition this year.
2) Buy A Poppy. During the days leading up to Memorial Day, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars take donations for poppies. The poppy's significance to Memorial Day is the result of the John McCrae poem "In Flanders Fields." Disabled and needy veterans in VA hospitals have been assembling Buddy Poppies since 1924. Purchase one, and your donation assists in maintaining state and national rehabilitation and service programs for veterans.
3) Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance. In an effort to restore Memorial Day as the sacred and noble holiday it was meant to be, the National Moment of Remembrance, established by Congress, asks Americans wherever they are at 3 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day to pause in an act of national unity (duration: one minute).The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.
4) Thank A Veteran. While Memorial Day is a time for remembering and honoring our fallen soldiers, it's also a wonderful time to thank those soldiers past and present who are right here today! Thank them for all they have done to protect our country and our freedoms. Don't know a veteran or want to do more? You can write a letter to a veteran or soldier! Check out: OperationGratitude.com for more information about writing letters or sending care packages to soldiers currently deployed.
Did you know?
Volunteers throughout the country decorate veterans’ graves with small American flags. The U.S. president or vice president typically presides at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Solemn observances are held at Civil War battle sites, including Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Sharpsburg (Antietam), Maryland.
Many Memorial Day celebrations include the playing of “Taps,” a 24-note bugle call. It is thought to be a revision of a French bugle signal called “Tattoo.” It was sounded an hour before the final bugle call to end the day so that soldiers knew when to extinguish fires and lights and return to their garrisons.
On Memorial Day, flags are flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon. Then, they are raised to the top of the staff until sunset to honor our nation’s battle heroes. The POW-MIA flag is displayed below the U.S. flag.