22 May Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is a federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. For many Americans, it is a day for barbecues, picnics and neighborhood parades. However, what often gets overlooked is the real reason for the holiday, which is to remember and honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the U. S. military to defend and protect America’s right to freedom. Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day, which meant a time to visit and decorate the graves of veterans who served and perished.
Decoration Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, by General Logan (a National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic). General Logan believed that a day to honor the country’s fallen heroes would help to unite the citizens who were still recovering from the loss of loved ones. Decoration Day was a meant to be a day for visiting and placing flowers at the graves of those who died during the Civil War.
After World War I, Decoration Day was gradually becoming known “Memorial Day,” a day to honor those who died in all wars. Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, which was the date General Logan had originally selected for Decoration Day. However, in 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed by Congress, establishing the last Monday in May as Memorial Day in order for federal employees to have a 3-day weekend. The official change went into effect in 1971. This law also declared Memorial Day as a Federal holiday.
Traditional Memorial Day Celebrations
Many of the traditions that originated in 1968 continue today, including a National Memorial Day Observance ceremony, which is held at Arlington National Cemetery. During the ceremony, the president of the United States speaks and lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Old Guard (the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment) places small American flags at each the gravesites of service members that are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The flags are placed at the graves every year on the Thursday before Memorial Day. Americans are also supposed to stop for one minute of silence at 3 P.M. local time on Memorial Day to pay tribute to those who died while serving.
Memorial Day Celebration Ideas
Whether you are grieving or are choosing to celebrate, here are a few things you can do to remember the military personnel who have died defending and protecting the country:
- Remember a fallen service member by making a toast to them or say something about them to family and friends.
- Participate in the nationwide moment of silence, which occurs for one minute of silence at 3 PM.
- Visit a local cemetery to put fresh flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.
It is important to keep in mind that some people view this as a day of grieving, so it is important to be observant of others and their thoughts on this day. Remember to be mindful of others, and the reason for the celebration doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the day, it simply means that we should all take a moment to acknowledge the history and significance of the day.
From everyone at Rocky Mountain Brain & Spine Institute, we hope you take the time to honor the fallen soldiers as well as celebrate the holiday this Memorial Day.