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Remembering Our Fallen
May 21, 2018
As we prepare to observe Memorial Day, it’s a good time to reflect on what this day truly means for us as Americans.
While widely viewed as the unofficial kick-off to the summer season, Memorial Day actually deserves more of our attention as “America’s Most Solemn Holiday.”
Memorial Day is, quite simply, about remembering our fallen soldiers. Its origin is said to be rooted in a Southern tradition of traveling and gathering to honor and remember those who have died.
This tradition took on even more importance following America’s most deadly conflict to date: the Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865. So many lives were claimed during the Civil War that our country had to establish its first national cemeteries. On July 17, 1862, Congress enacted legislation that authorized the President to purchase cemetery grounds to be used as national cemeteries “for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country.” Fourteen cemeteries were established that first year. By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been buried in 73 national cemeteries.
By the late 1860s, Americans across the country began holding springtime tributes to these fallen soldiers.
Observed on the last Monday of each May, Memorial Day first began by decree on May 30, 1868 in an order signed by Commander in Chief John A. Logan. The order stated that the day is intended, “for the purpose of strewing flowers on or decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of our country…whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The purpose of Memorial Day is to remind us, as American people, to never forget these brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom…freedom that we can easily take for granted, at times.
In keeping with the solemnity, respect, and honor the holiday deserves, you may consider some new traditions that will keep this day in its proper perspective:
Pause at 3 p.m.
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.
Make a gift
to organizations whose programs assist disabled and disadvantaged veterans and support veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs.
is a good resource to find vetted, reputable charities should you choose to make a donation.
Visit memorials and cemeteries
and place flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
Fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
Remember that Memorial Day is a day of
As you enjoy your time with family and friends this Memorial Day, please take the time to remember the many sacrifices that have been made for our freedoms, especially honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom by giving their lives.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration
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