Memorial Day: Just a 3-Day Weekend, or Something More?


Memorial Day is coming up, and who isn’t excited for the three-day weekend, but what does Memorial Day really mean?  

Memorial Day is a Federal holiday in the United States where citizen recognize, celebrate and sometimes mourn members in the U.S Armed Forces who have died serving in the United States military. In 1868, the first Memorial Day (previously called Decoration Day) took place to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. In 1971, the U.S congress renamed it Memorial Day and set the date to the last Monday in May. 

What is the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day? Armed Forces Day is an unofficial holiday (meaning we do not get a day off) honoring anyone currently serving in the military. It is held on the third Saturday in May. Veterans Day is a federal holiday (meaning we do get the day off) that takes place on November 11th. It celebrates anyone who has previously served in the U.S. military. Finally, Memorial Day (also a federal holiday, meaning a day off school) is on the last Monday in May that honors those who died serving in the military. 

How do people celebrate Memorial Day? On Memorial Day, all flags are flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to full staff. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials. All over the country, in small towns and in national memorials, volunteer organizations place flags on the graves in cemeteries, like Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC.  

I visited Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in February. While watching the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I noticed how quiet and solemn the ceremony was. The thing I thought stood out the most was how the Sentinel that guards the tomb dedicated his life to serving the memory of those lost in war. He takes his job very seriously and performs the changing of the guard with precision, rain, or shine, for 75 years and counting. It is something that all Americans should experience.  

Memorial Day is known as the unofficial kick-off of summer but is also an important day that has been celebrated for 157 years to service men and women who sacrificed their lives in service to our country.