Honoring Our Fallen Military Heroes


“The observance of a National Moment of Remembrance is a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”
President William J. Clinton

In 1971, Memorial Day was designated by Congress as a national holiday to honor all Americans who died while defending the United States and its values. However, before Memorial Day was declared a national holiday, Americans had been honoring fallen soldiers for many years. In May 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the Grand Army of the Republic established this day as a way to honor those who died in the war by decorating their graves with flowers. Originally it was called Decoration Day. The month of May was a natural choice as most of the country has flowers blooming in May.

Even before that time, many communities had unofficially honored fallen Civil War soldiers in their own ways. In the spring of 1866, a group of women in Columbus, Mississippi visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had died at Shiloh. Nearby graves of Union soldiers had been neglected because they were the enemy. Troubled by the sight of those bare graves, the women also placed flowers on the Union graves to honor their sacrifice. Today some southern states also hold their own Confederate observances. After World War I, the purpose of Memorial Day was expanded to honor all American soldiers who died for their country.

Unfortunately, for some of us, the meaning of Memorial Day has become diluted over the years. We make plans for an extended recreational weekend and hope it doesn’t rain. Some of us don’t fly the flag or set aside a couple of hours to bring our families to a nearby Memorial Day parade and ceremony put on by local veterans groups to honor our fallen military service members. In 1997, many radio and TV stations recognized this trend and began playing “Taps” at 3pm on Memorial Day to remind citizens to pause and remember fallen military service members. On December 28, 2000, President Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act – designated at 3pm on Memorial Day each year – in hopes of promoting greater understanding of the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday and encouraging more commemorative events across the country.

So, at 3pm on Memorial Day, stop what you are doing and pause for a Moment of Remembrance. Take your family to a local parade and ceremony, and fly the American flag at home. Explain to your kids what this day is all about. Each of us can do one small thing on Memorial Day to remember and honor the men and women who lost their lives in service to our country. ♦


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