What is Memorial Day?
It is often confused with Veterans Day. It is even sometimes confused with Labor Day because one falls at the beginning of the summer and one at the end. It is thought of as the day for remembering those who’ve served their country, who are still serving their country, died in battle or having served in specific wars such as World Wars I and II. So which is it?
The first official Memorial Day was celebrated on May 28, 1868. It’s popularly known as the day when flowers were placed on Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It was originally declared Decoration Day; established on May 5, 1868 by The Grand Army of the Republic. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that it be observed on May 30, and today Memorial day is celebrated annually on the last Monday of May. It is the official holiday for paying tribute to our Military personnel who have died in service to their country; a time for the nation to decorate the graves of our war dead. It was made an official holiday by congress in 1971. Though history tells several versions of the actual inception of this day and it’s becoming an official holiday, it’s clearly a time to remember.
There are many ways to honor our Military on this special occasion. Here is a short list to get you and your family started.
- Say Thanks: Write a thank-you letter to a veteran or current member of the armed forces; whether it’s your grandfather or someone you’ve never met. A Million Thanks makes it easy to send a letter to men and women in the military, and making a card is a fun, hands-on activity for kids of all ages.
- Barbecue for the Troops: This year, the USO is encouraging people to host Barbecues for the Troops, backyard fundraising events to support the morale-boosting efforts of the USO. Find out how you can host your own at BBQforthetroops.org.
- Support Injured Service Members and Their Families: In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, over 48,000 service members have sustained physical injuries, with at least 400,000 more facing post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues. The Wounded Warrior Project provides everything from outdoor rehabilitation retreats to career connections.
- Visit a Veteran’s Cemetery: One of the most traditional ways to recognize Memorial Day is to visit one of the VA’s National Cemeteries for Memorial Day Ceremony. (You can find a list here.) Others also honor the dead by placing flags and flowers on veterans’ graves.
We honor our military men and women who have died in battle or from wounds sustained in battle today. Flags fly at half-staff until noon; short pole flags on homes and other structures display a black ribbon from the end of the flagpole until noon. Our hearts reach out to you, your families, and your loved ones today. Thank you