My son asked me when he was young what did Memorial Day mean. “I know it’s the beginning of Summer, but why is it a holiday?”
It is more than just a holiday for hot dogs and parties at the beach. It is more than a day off and a three day vacation.
Originally it was Decoration Day, originating the years following the Civil War to honor men and women who died while serving our military.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t made into a full federal holiday until a little after I was born in 1971.
Now the one thing that confuses people is Memorial Day is to remember the men and women who DIED while serving. Sometimes they confuse that with Veterans Day which is to honor the service of all veterans.
On the morning of Memorial Day, the United States flag should be raised with speed to the top of the flag pole and then solemnly lowered to half staff until noon. This is to remember the men and women who gave their lives in service and protection of their country. Then at noon, the flag is raised to full staff for the rest of the day. It has been said that “their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all,” but I can not find the origin of it, just a reference in the United States Code from 2006.
Congress in 2000 asked people to stop and remember at 3 P.M. part of the National Moment of Remembrance Act which was signed by President Clinton.
I think the key line in the act was :
“To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”
December 28, 2000 Today I am pleased to sign S. 3181, the ``National Moment of Remembrance Act,'' which designates 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance, in honor of the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace. The Act also establishes a White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, to coordinate and encourage commemorative events on Memorial Day each year, and a Remembrance Alliance, to assist the Commission in promoting the observance of the Memorial Day holiday and organizing an annual White House Conference on the National Moment of Remembrance. Each Memorial Day, the Nation honors those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While these heroes should be honored every day for their profound contribution to securing our Nation's freedom, they and their families should be especially honored on Memorial Day. The observance of a National Moment of Remembrance is a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms. This Act recognizes in law a commemoration begun on Memorial Day in May 1997, when ``Taps'' was played at 3:00 p.m. on many radio and television stations across the Nation as Americans paused to remember the men and women who have lost their lives in service to our country. This past May, both a Congressional Resolution and a Presidential Proclamation called for the observance of a National Moment of Remembrance. It is my hope that the establishment of the National Moment of Remembrance in law, along with the creation of the White House Commission, will promote greater understanding of the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday for all Americans. In signing this Act, I note that the Appointments Clause of the Constitution requires that all Federal officers exercising executive authority be appointed in conformity with that Clause. Because the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution--who would be a member of the Commission--is not so appointed, he may not exercise significant governmental authority on the Commission but may directly participate in the ceremonial or advisory functions of the Commission. Moreover, because the members of the Remembrance Alliance are not appointed in conformity with the Appointments Clause, they must remain under the supervision of the Commission, and I interpret the Act to establish such a relationship between the two bodies. William J. Clinton The White House, December 28, 2000. Note: S. 3181, approved December 28, was assigned Public Law No. 106- 579. This statement was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on December 29.
Originally, May 30th was chosen to be the official date or Decoration Day but in 1968 to conveniently create 3 day weekends, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, have argued since then, moving the date has lost the meaning and spirit of the day. In 1987 Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye, himself a WWII vet, introduced a measure to return Memorial Day to May 30th. He continued introducing the resolution in every congress until he died.
It was never passed.