What Memorial Day Really Means

Honor Through Remembrance

A widow will remember with perfect clarity the sacrifice of her late husband who died in army service. A child might carefully caress an old family quilt in reverence of fallen grandparents who gave their lives to the nation so that this child could remain free. Plots of land in every state are marred by the death of heroes, and any person who chances to walk down their hallowed lanes of graves recollects the war stories heard in school about the patriots who gave all they could and then just a little bit more.

No matter the story, no matter the connection, every person in the United States is affected by the soldiers who traded their lives to keep us free. We always appreciate them, but on Memorial Day, we revere them.

Memorial Day Infographic 2016 with Memorial Day Facts

Memorial Day’s Beginning – Decoration Day

In 1868, when the day was first established as May 30th, a ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery at which General James Garfield gave a speech about its significance. About 5,000 people then decorated every grave–all 20,000 that marked the places where fallen Confederate and Union soldiers lay. At that time, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day because memorializing fallen soldiers coincided with the physical act of decorating their final resting places. In fact, May 30th was “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died.”

Originally, this day was meant to honor only those who died in the Civil War, but after WWI, soldiers who died in any war were recognized. Even though this tradition has been in place since 1868, it was not officially declared a national holiday until 1971. It is now observed on the last Monday in May.

Memoral Day began as Decoration Day, Arlington National CemeteryMemorial Day Traditions beyond the Backyard BBQ

Since this is a national holiday, most schools and many workplaces have a three-day weekend. It only makes sense that families across the country would gather to roast up some hotdogs together to usher in the summer season, right? In fact, many organizations worry that this is exactly what Memorial Day has become for many Americans. But there are other patriotic traditions that anyone can participate in to directly show respect for our fallen heroes.

  1. Visit a veterans cemetery or the grave of a particular veteran that you used to know. Bring flowers and consider helping beautify the area by clearing away stray leaves and dirt.
  1. Pause for a minute at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a moment of silence in remembrance and respect. In 2000, a congressional resolution officially made this time a National Moment of Remembrance.
  1. Visit a battlefield. There are dozens of national battlefields along the East Coast that mark places where soldiers gave up their lives during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and other conflicts to keep the country united and free. Since Memorial Day was established in response to deaths during the Civil War, visiting these sites is a great way to observe the national day.
  1. Hoist the American flag. Many flags go up around Memorial Day, and several Boy Scouts troops even place flags in people’s yards as a fundraiser and to help demonstrate patriotism. If your flag is on a flagpole, make sure to keep it at half-mast until noon.
  1. Watch a movie or t.v. show that represents historical military events. It might not be possible to travel to a battlefield, but you can watch a movie about one in your own home. There are several theatrical movies and documentaries that show the facts and emotions behind the facts of U.S. military conflicts, such as those for the Civil War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and both World Wars.

How Will You Remember?How Will You Remember Memorial Day

In 1868, General Logan said, “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to
the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

This Memorial Day, put aside the burger for a few moments and help us honor fallen U.S. troops. How will you choose to remember the “cost of a free and undivided republic” this year? Tell us about your plans and visit our social media pages to see how we at Low VA Rates are spending this Memorial Day.

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