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What is Memorial Day?

Most Americans know that Memorial Day is a day to honor the military who gave their life in service to our great country, but sometimes it’s not easy to differentiate between our military observances. So here’s a short recap:

  • Armed Forces Day: the third Saturday in May, honors those who are serving in the military.

  • Memorial Day: the last Monday of each May, remembers those who died while serving.

  • Veterans Day: the 11th day of November, honors those who served in the military.

Here is a little history and a few facts about Memorial Day you may find interesting:

1. It began right after the Civil War

After the Civil War, in April of 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in a gesture of respect and reconciliation. In that same month, 219 Civil War veterans marched through the streets of Carbondale, Illinois in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Maj. Gen. John A. Logan delivered an address to memorialize the fallen. The people of Waterloo, New York., began holding an annual community service to the fallen on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the "birthplace of Memorial Day."

2. It wasn’t always called Memorial Day

From the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn't disappear until after World War II. Federallaw declared "Memorial Day" the official name in 1967.

3. The Flag on Memorial Day

It is customary on Memorial Day to fly our country’s flag at half-staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.

4. A Moment of Remembrance

And in 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. "is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday."

For many, Memorial Day is the introduction to summer – a three-day weekend to have a barbecue and get the summer’s first sunburn. And, that’s okay. Our fallen heroes bravely served to protect the freedoms that we enjoy.

Today, while we enjoy time with family and friends, let’s take a moment and say a prayer of thanks and appreciation for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

I am grateful for their sacrifice and for this wonderful country in which we live.

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