What is Memorial Day?
Observed during the last Monday in May, Memorial Day is the day our country comes together to commemorate our brave service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the extraordinary freedom our nation has enjoyed for generations. Introduced as Decoration Day in May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, to lay flowers on (or decorate) the graves of fallen service members, Memorial Day became a federal holiday with the congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971.
Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day
Honor Memorial Day and the memory of our family members, loved ones, friends, neighbors, and everyone who has served our country with a few thoughtful ways we’ve gathered to commemorate this special holiday.
Wear a Memorial Day Pin, Button, or Red Poppy Flower
Proudly wearing a symbol of our country’s military, including a button or pin of the American flag, is a vibrant, eye-catching way to show everyone your patriotic spirit. Choosing to wear a red poppy is a time honored Memorial Day tradition that began during the time of World War I after a poem written by physician and Lt. Col. John McCrae, In Flanders Fields, that describes the fields of brightly colored red poppies he observed while treating the wounded on battlefields during the war. These brightly colored flowers are now known as a national symbol of military sacrifice throughout many countries around the world.
Volunteer Your Time to Veterans, Widows, and Others Affected by Our Fight for Freedom
Perhaps you live near a VA hospital or clinic, an assisted living center, or even in the same neighborhood that a veteran calls home. Spend part of your Memorial Day weekend – and other days throughout the year – bringing joy and the camaraderie of a friendly conversation to veterans, their widows, children, or other loved ones by stopping by for a visit. Whether you bring along a sweet treat, a little token of gratitude, or simply offer your time, they’re sure to feel cared for, remembered, and appreciated.
Honor Our Patriots with a Memorial Plaque
From park benches to tree lined walkways, gardens, bike trails, or even city centers, a professionally engraved brass plaque is a simple, timeless way to memorialize those who selflessly served our country. Go classic by engraving names and dates, or get a bit creative and include a special quote or favorite saying of the person who’s memory you re honoring, even a favorite hobby or an engraved image. Anything that will show others something special about your loved one is a wonderful way to honor his or her memory and military service.
Fly the American Flag Proudly and Properly on Memorial Day
To properly display the American flag on Memorial Day, swiftly raise the flag to the top of the flag pole, and then solemnly lower it to half-staff until noon. This is done to honor and remember our fallen service men and women who gave their lives serving our country. At noon, raise the flag back to the top to symbolize that we continue the fight for liberty, freedom, and justice for our fellow Americans.
Our Original Star Spangled Banner Still Flying Proudly
If you’ve ever been to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., then you’ve had the awe-inspiring experience of viewing the original Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Frances Scott Key to pen our national anthem. Raised over Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, to show America’s victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore, this flag is among the Smithsonian’s most treasured artifacts. After years of painstaking preservation efforts, America’s original Star Spangled Banner is proudly displayed in a permanent exhibition gallery where millions of people continue to enjoy her incredible splendor!