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History and importance of Memorial Day

Posted: May 29, 2010 12:48 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The history of Memorial Day has roots dating back to Pericles, who offered the following tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War: "Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men."

In the USA shortly after the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic designated a Decoration Day to honor the fallen Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington.

Maj. Gen. John Logan declared that Decoration Day would be observed on May 30. It is believed he chose that day because he believed that flowers would be in full bloom across the land.

After World War I, the observances expanded to include soldiers who died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress passed legislation declaring Memorial Day would be a national holiday and observed on the last Monday of May.

Finally, in 2000, Congress passed 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.

The proper display of the American Flag for the day is half staff until noon, then raised to the top.


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