Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a time of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It was originally observed on May 30 as a day of reconciliation and a coming together to honor those brave members of the military who gave their all.
In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act, which changed Memorial Day to the last Monday in May to ensure a three-day weekend. As a result, the traditional observance has diminished, and many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are no longer decorated with flowers or flag but increasingly ignored and neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette of the day.
Some towns and cities still have Memorial Day parades; many have not held one in decades. In 2004, Washington, DC, held its first Memorial Day parade in more than 60 years. Some people believe the day is for honoring any and all of the dead, not just those who died in service to our country. Many see it as a day for cookouts, parties, or just a long weekend for traveling and visiting friends or relatives.
One step toward restoring the meaning of Memorial Day to its original intent was the National Moment of Remembrance resolution, passed in December 2000. It asks that at 3:00 PM local time, all Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”
As we go about our way Memorial Day weekend, let us all take a little time to show respect and appreciation to those who are currently serving our country as well as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, their families, friends, and loved ones.
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Article by Gene A. Crayton, Former Paralyzed Veterans of America National President. Adapted from PN Magazine, May 2010 President's Message.