How to Honor Memorial Day
Since 1971, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May. Here’s how to honor the fallen
From the LifeMinute.TV Team
May 29, 2024
Many of us associate Memorial Day with the official beginning of summer, often marked by outdoor fun and feasting with friends and family. But it’s important to remember this somber holiday pays tribute to the men and women who have died in military service to our country. Here are some facts about this special day and how we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day began during the American Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those killed in battle. The first national celebration was on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars. The national celebration of the holiday continues to take place at Arlington National Cemetery with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Protocol for flying the American flag on Memorial Day includes raising it quickly to the top of the pole at sunrise. Then immediately lower it to half-staff until noon and display it at full-staff until sunset.
Pop of Color
Since WWI, the red poppy has been recognized as a national symbol of sacrifice worn by Americans to honor those who served and died for the United States in all wars. Its significance derives from the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who was also a physician serving on the front lines. He described the poppies that “blow between the crosses, row on row,” referencing the blood-red flowers that sprang up among the soldiers’ graves. In 1918, Moina Michael wrote another poem that was a tribute to McCrae’s account. Her poem and enthusiasm for using the poppy as a remembrance of the fallen helped the poppy to become the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion. Each year members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower donate to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families with medical and financial needs.
Many states have national veteran cemeteries where you can visit and honor them. Or you can pay respects by way of a virtual visit. In 2019, the USO captured 360-degree videos of several D.C. area war memorials, including the World War II Memorial and Vietnam Memorial. You can view the videos virtually and online and read about D.C. area memorials at USO.org.
Write it Down
Memorial Day is a wonderful opportunity to say “thank you” to veterans and current military members. You can do so by writing a handwritten letter. Go to OperationGratitude.com for more information about writing letters or sending care packages to our deployed troops, recruit graduates, veterans, wounded heroes, and first responders to thank them for their service.
Established by Congress and signed into law in 2000, The National Moment of Remembrance encourages Americans to pause for 1 minute in national unity wherever they are at 3 pm local time on Memorial Day to remember those who have died in military service to the United States. 3 pm was chosen because it is considered a period when many Americans are likely enjoying their time off on the national holiday.
Pay It Forward
Volunteer time at a community soup kitchen or help a friend or an elderly neighbor who may need assistance. Engaging in this type of selfless act echoes the spirit of Memorial Day.