May 19, 2011
by Airman First Class Jessica Keith
17th Training Wing Public Affairs
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas– — Every year, on the last Monday in May, the U.S. celebrates Memorial Day. It is a time to honor all the Americans who have given their lives in service to our country.
According to usmemorialday.org, while New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day, its origins are ambiguous. More than two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of this somber holiday.
It was first officially observed in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Families of fallen servicemembers and volunteers from the surrounding communities gathered to place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.
Today, cities and towns observe Memorial Day in a variety of ways. It is recognized as a Federal Holiday and many areas hold parades and gather for large celebrations.
Other observances of the day are not so festive. Since the 1950s, the Army’s 3rd US Infantry places flags on the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. More than 1,200 soldiers gather on the Thursday before Memorial Day to recognize each of the 260,000 servicemembers who rest there.
The Boy and Girl Scouts of America place candles on more than 15,000 graves at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia.
Due to a decline in the traditional observances of the day, Congress passed a resolution in 2000 asking Americans to set aside a moment of silence to honor the fallen. The National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. (local time) across the nation.
As you enjoy time off with family and friends, take a moment to remember those who came before you.