By- Ángela Padrón

Every year on the last Monday in May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day. On this day, people honor men and women in the military who died while in service to their country.

People visit cemeteries and memorials, hold parades with members of the military and various veterans’ organizations participating, and gather friends and family together to remember lost loved ones who served in the United States military. At 3:00 pm on this day, there is an official national moment of silence to remember the fallen.

Memorial Day was first called “Decoration Day” and was first observed after the Civil War, which ended in 1865. The Civil War was the deadliest conflict in our nation’s history and, as a result, the first national cemeteries were created. The first Memorial Day celebration is said to have taken place on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York, when businesses closed and people in the town placed flowers and flags on the graves of Civil War soldiers. People continued to pay tribute to soldiers and decorated graves with flowers each year after.

In 1868, General John A. Logan, who led the Northern Civil War veterans’ organization, called for a day of remembrance later in the month, on May 30th. By 1890, each of the Northern states had held annual events to commemorate the day. Southern States chose their own day to memorialize soldiers until after World War I when the holiday began to focus not only on Civil War veterans but also on military servicemen and women from all wars. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees at the end of May. This took effect three years later, with Memorial Day becoming an official federal holiday in 1971.

In many parts of the United States, Memorial Day also signifies the start of summer. People enjoy the change in weather by heading to the beach or having parties and barbecues. The true meaning of the holiday is not to celebrate having a day off from work or spending a day outdoors, however; it’s to reflect on the sacrifices people made to protect our country and fight for our rights as citizens.

Every Memorial Day, every American should take time to thank an active military member for their current service, a veteran for their past service, and to thank the families of those who lost loved ones in battle, for they truly have made the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment of our country.

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