Memorial Day will be celebrated on May 27, 2024 (Credit: Public Domain)

Memorial Day is celebrated annually on the last Monday of May. The federal holiday, which will be marked on May 27, 2024, honors all military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This includes the men and women in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day, which is celebrated on November 11. While both honor US military personnel, they serve different purposes. Memorial Day pays respect to those who died in the line of duty, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all US military personnel, living or deceased.

The first national Memorial Day celebration was organized by John A. Logan. On May 30, 1868, the former Civil War general led a group of 5,000 people to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. They placed American flags and flowers on the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have different purposes (Credit:

Logan hoped "Decoration Day," as he called it, would help improve the strained relations between the Northern and Southern States following the American Civil War (1861-1865). Some historians think he picked May 30 because it did not fall on the anniversary of any Civil War battle. Others believe it was because flowers would bloom throughout the country in late May. This would make it easy to decorate the graves.

By 1890, all the Northern States had adopted Decoration Day. However, the Southern States continued to honor their fallen soldiers on other days. They only began observing the holiday after it was extended to include the soldiers killed in World War I.

Decoration Day, 1876 (Credit: Library of Congress/ Public Domain)

US lawmakers declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971. They also moved the date to the last Monday in May to allow Americans to enjoy a three-day weekend. The change, however, caused the holiday to lose some significance. Kids began to think of Memorial Day as the start of summer, while adults saw it as a time to shop for bargains.

In December 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act to remind Americans of the holiday's significance. It urges citizens to observe a minute of silence at 3:00 p.m. (local time) to honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the country's safety and freedom. This Memorial Day, take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to remember the fallen heroes.