Commemorating Memorial Day

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Memorial Day honors those who have died in US military service (Credit: Welcomeveterans.org)

Memorial Day, which will be observed on May 30, 2022, is often considered the "unofficial" start of summer by Americans. However, the US federal holiday, celebrated annually on the last Monday of May, has a solemn purpose. It honors the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This includes those in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

General John Logan, the National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), organized the first memorial day observance on May 30, 1868. He hoped that a special day to commemorate the nation's fallen heroes would help heal the rift between the Northern and Southern States, whose residents were still recovering from the American Civil War (1861-1865). Logan and 5,000 other participants marked what was then called "Decoration Day" by placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

In 1968, the US Congress declared Memorial Day, a federal holiday. The lawmakers also moved the holiday's date to the last Monday of May to enable Americans to enjoy a three-day weekend. But some believe the change, which went into effect in 1971, has caused the holiday to lose its significance. Kids think of it as the beginning of summer, while adults view it as an opportunity to host barbecue parties and shop for bargains.

In December 2000, former US President Bill Clinton passed “The National Moment of Remembrance Act" to remind Americans of the holiday's true purpose. The law urges Americans to observe a minute of silence at 3:00 pm (local time) to honor the heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the safety and freedom of our country. So, this May 30, set aside the burgers and root beer floats for a few minutes and reflect on all the brave men and women who are no longer around to enjoy the three-day weekend with their families.

Happy Memorial Day!

Resources: History.com, Wikipedia.org, Va.org, PBS.org

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