Memorial Day: It's More Than Just a Day at the Beach

Memorial Day is more than the unofficial beginning of the summer season, the official day you can begin wearing white, a day off from work or a day at the beach. It is one of our most solemn holidays to remember those that died defending their nation. 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.

Memorial Day History

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

Decoration Day

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.

Three-Day Memorial Weekend

For years, 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. This creates a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971.

National Moment of Remembrance

To ensure the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. Everyone is to pause for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

Don’t Say Thank You on Memorial Day

"I hope you're having a meaningful day." That might be one of the better things to say to a veteran or service person. You should probably avoid the common refrain, "Thank you for your service." On Memorial Day, the veteran or service person you're talking to may be going through a range of emotions today remembering people who have died over the years.Memorial Day and Veterans Day serve different purposes. Veterans Day is to honor the service of people who have worn the uniforms of the armed forces. Memorial Day is intended to remember those who died while serving.Today we remember our fallen heroes they are the reason we are free!