“…gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime….let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.” –General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868
Many people observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. US Eastern time. Another tradition is to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers usually place an American flag upon each grave site located in a National Cemetery. Watch the video.
You can also abserve Memorial Day the following ways:
by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
by visiting memorials.
by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
by flying the ‘POW/MIA Flag’ as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
by participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance”: at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day is also also used as a time for picnics, barbecues, family gatherings, and sporting events. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. Some Americans also view Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer and Labor Day as the unofficial end of the season. The national “Click It or Ticket” campaign ramps up beginning Memorial Day weekend, noting the beginning of the most dangerous season for auto accidents and other safety related incidents. The U.S. Air Force’s “101 Critical Days of Summer” begin on this day as well. Many Americans use Memorial Day to also honor any family members who have died, not just servicemen.
Memorial Day formerly occurred on May 30, and some, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), advocate returning to this fixed date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address, “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.” Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran, has repeatedly introduced measures to return Memorial Day to its traditional day since 1987.
Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances eventually coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.
The official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York. The village was credited with being the birthplace because it observed the day on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter, and because it is likely that the friendship of General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who led the call for the day to be observed each year and helped spread the event nationwide, was a key factor in its growth.