Of course, we are thankful for a day off and a fun time barbecuing with our friends and family, but let us not forget why we celebrate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is a time to remember all who have died serving in the American armed forces. The Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corp, and Coast Guard. Historically, after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, Decoration Day was established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died in the war with flowers. Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day celebrations were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. However, that day was not expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars, until after World War I. Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971. It was then also determined as the last Monday in May.
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 commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and 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 for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.
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