Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States of America that is observed on the last Monday of the month of May to pay homage to those who lost their lives serving for the Armed Forces of the country.

Initially the day commemorated the Union and Confederate soldiers who were martyred in the Civil War, but since the 20th Century the day is upheld to honor all Americans who gave their life for military service.

Memorial Day in the next five years:

  • In 2014, Memorial Day is on Monday, May 26.
  • In 2015, Memorial Day is on Monday, May 25.
  • In 2016, Memorial Day is on Monday, May 30.
  • In 2017, Memorial Day is on Monday, May 29.
  • In 2018, Memorial Day is on Monday, May 28.

Coinage and Date:

Initially the day was known to be “Decoration Day” which was changed to the “Memorial Day” in 1882. However, this change was not commonly used until after the World War II. On June 28, 1968 with the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the date was altered from May 30 to the last Monday of the month of May, and in the process the official name was also declared to be Memorial Day. The law has been effective since 1971 which was adopted by all the 50 States within a course of a couple of years.

History:

According to beliefs, it was in the summer of the year 1865 that a local druggist by the name of Henry Welles mentioned to his friends that there should be some means to honor those men and women who went to fight the Civil War and never made it back home. Not much was achieved out of it unless Welles mentioned the idea to General John B. Murray, a Civil War hero. With the help of Murray they built up support for the cause and on May 5, 1866, the group marched to the local cemeteries to decorate graves of departed soldiers. Murray had connection with General John Logan who was an American soldier, congressman, and senator. It was Logan who issued orders in 1868 for a national commemoration.

Public Life:

Non-essential Government departments do not function on this day. Schools are often closed too for the occasion. No such regulation is applicable in case of retail stores or restaurants. In fact, retailers come up with huge schemes and discounts to lure buyers during this time. Public transportation system may run a little erratic though. Many people use this long weekend break to enjoy a short vacation. If the day falls on a Saturday then the federal holiday is observed on the preceding Friday; and if the day falls on a Sunday then it is observed on the following Monday.

Observances:

On this day the fag of the United States is raised to the top in a brisk manner and then lowered to the half mast position in a solemn fashion where it is kept that way till noon. At noon the flag is again raised to the full position where it is kept for the rest of the day. The half staff position of the national flag is to pay tribute to more than a million of men and women who never hesitated to give their life to serve the country. The full staff position of the flag is to honor those men and women living who have resolved not to let the sacrifice of those martyrs go in vain, and to stand up for any cause of the country and continue to fight to achieve liberty and justice for all.

In the west lawn of the United States Capitol the National Memorial Day Concert is organized where respect is paid to the martyrs through music performance. Multiple military themed parades are held in different cities all over the country that mostly feature marching bands. Often National Guards, Servicemen, Veterans and Military Vehicles are made part of these parades. Since 1911, the day has also been associated with the auto race Indianapolis 500 which runs on the Sunday preceding the Memorial Day. Since 1961 the same day has also been selected to run the Coca-Cola 600 stock car race. Since 1976 the Memorial Day weekend has hosted the Memorial Tournament golf event.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials where departed veterans rest. In national cemeteries many volunteers place an American Flag on each of the graves of the veterans as a mark of respect.


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