Memorial Day: Ways to say thank you

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The Old Guard US Army soldier from 3rd US Infantry Regiment places flags on graves for Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery. (AP Photo)

The Old Guard US Army soldier from 3rd US Infantry Regiment places flags on graves for Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery. (AP Photo)

The Beginnings of Memorial Day

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

To ensure the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Easy Ways to Support our Troops and Their Families

As we plan our Memorial Day holiday, consider a few simple and inexpensive ways that you and your family can serve the military and their families. Taking a few minutes from a hectic schedule to show appreciation and kindness to someone serving our country will not only bless you, it will also pay tribute to those who have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. See a list of ideas here.

Military Charity Associations

You can help provide support with a financial gift. Members of the military community — veterans, active-duty, reserve, National Guard, or their family members — benefit from several types of charitable associations and organizations. These charitable organizations can provide advocacy, emergency assistance, grants, counseling, and other types of direct and indirect support. See a directory of charity associations and organizations here.

Source: Military.com

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