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Memorial Day

What is it?

Memorial Day is an opportunity for the American public to honor men and women who died while in military service. Memorial Day differs from Veterans Day even though both federal holidays acknowledge military members. Veterans Day is an opportunity for Americans to publicly recognize living military veterans while Memorial Day honors just our fallen Service members.

Memorial Day was formally known as Decoration Day and was first observed on May 30, 1868 at Arlington National Ceremony. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) -- the organization for Civil War Union veterans -- leaders wanted to honor fallen Civil War Service members by decorating their graves. It was widely believed that the GAR chose this date because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Throughout the next century, Decoration Day continued to be observed on May 30. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday that occurs on the last Monday of May.

What is the Army doing?

The Army will join the nation in observing Memorial Day. Common traditions of this observance include hosting remembrance ceremonies, visiting memorials, placing American flags at gravesites and pausing for a moment of silence. Some garrisons will also conduct "Run to Honor" races where participants can wear commemorative racing bibs in remembrance of fallen Soldiers.

The Army recently produced public service announcements (PSAs) about Memorial Day's true meaning. These PSAs feature Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond T. Odierno and survivors of fallen Service members who talk about what Memorial Day means to them and why Americans should remember fallen Soldiers during the holiday weekend. The PSAs are available to view on the IMCOM YouTube channel and will continue to air throughout the year.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

The Army is committed to providing on-going support to surviving Family members. Survivor Outreach Services offices have resources including supportive counseling, financial education, benefits coordination and support groups to Family members at the garrison and the surrounding areas.

Why is this important to the Army?

The Army remembers, recognizes and honors the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen Soldiers. These Soldiers died in order to protect the nation's freedom. The Army will not forget their service and will continue to take care of their surviving Family members.