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Honoring the Legacy of Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

May 16th, 2024

Memorial Day is a sacred occasion to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. As we express our love and gratitude to fallen soldiers, it’s important to reflect on the deep and poignant context of this solemn day.

The History of Memorial Day

The origins of Memorial Day trace back to the aftermath of the American Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began as a way to commemorate Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives during the conflict. The first widely recognized observance took place on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

In subsequent years, Memorial Day evolved to honor all American military personnel who died in service, expanding beyond the Civil War to encompass conflicts such as World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and more recent engagements.

Sacrifice by the Numbers

As we pay homage to fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, it's crucial to recognize the vast scale of their sacrifice. Since the American Revolutionary War, over 1.3 million Americans have given their lives in service to their country. Each number represents a unique story of courage, sacrifice and a commitment to something greater than oneself. While many think of Memorial Day as a day off of work, or a reason to enjoy a picnic or BBQ with friends and family, it’s important—especially for generations who have largely only know times of peace on U.S. soil--to take some time during the day to remember and honor these sacrifices.

How to Memorialize Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

Visit Their Resting Places

Begin the day by visiting the resting place of your loved one or any fallen soldier, or a local veterans’ cemetery. Tenderly place flowers or a small token of appreciation on grave sites and reflect on the collective sacrifice that has shaped our nation's history. Witness the laying of wreaths to honor the fallen from various conflicts.

Attend Memorial Day Ceremonies

Participate in Memorial Day ceremonies in your community, where the collective grief and gratitude for fallen soldiers comes together. Observe the “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 P.M. local time and listen for taps to be played where possible. Local ceremonies can be found by checking your local newspaper or online news sources, and by looking on local social media sites like Facebook or Nextdoor. You can also watch the annual Memorial Day Parade that takes place on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. and is shown on multiple television stations.

Investigate Your Family’s Military History

Do you have someone in your immediate family or social circle who lost their life in service to the United States? Or someone who has a strong connection to the U.S. military? Take the time to ask them about their experiences serving our country, or to share the stories from someone close to them who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Learn About Gold Star Families
The designation “Gold Star Family” is reserved for families of military members who have died in the line of duty. This title is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing. Spend a few moments this weekend learning about Gold Star Families in honor of Memorial Day.

Send a Gift or a Note to the Troops

Every day, troops from every branch of the U.S. military are separated from friends and family as they work to protect our freedom. And every day, their safety is never guaranteed. Remind them of your heartfelt pride as they carry the legacies of the fallen on their shoulders with a gift or a thoughtful card.

This Memorial Day, before biting into the burger off the grill or heading to the park for a picnic, take a moment to remember that while all gave some, some gave all. This is a day to honor and recognize the extraordinary sacrifices made by over 1.3 million Americans throughout history. By remembering their legacies, we’ll ensure that their spirit endures in the heart of our nation.