For many Americans, the first thought that comes to mind when we hear Memorial Day is the extra day that we get off work or school. While we do have a holiday on the last Monday in May, this day is not about cook outs, pool parties or the start of summer. Memorial Day is a day to recognize fallen service members of the United States Armed Forces and the countless sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of men, women and their families. It is a day of mourning for loved ones lost in war and is especially meaningful to active duty military, veterans, and family members. Soldiers visit their friend’s headstones at the cemetery to remember and honor them. Flags are placed at each headstone at Arlington National Cemetery and at thousands of other military cemeteries throughout the country.
Memorial Day became a nationally recognized holiday in 1971. It was originally known as Decoration Day and followed the Civil War years. Due to the tremendous loss of life during the Civil War, national cemeteries were established for the first time in America’s history. Americans began decorating gravestones to honor the dead; hence the day was designated as Decoration Day. Following World War I, Memorial Day came to recognize all service members lost in all wars and the name of the holiday shifted. A national moment of remembrance is held at 3:00 pm annually and Americans pause for a moment of silence.