Memorial Day 2011

Between 1941 and 1945 alone, over 400,000 brave Americans gave their lives in the deadliest military conflict in history. We will gather in remembrance this May 30th to commemorate Memorial Day, which honors the men and women who have died in service while in the military. Since 1971, this federal holiday has been recognized on the last Monday in May.

Originally called Decoration Day, the first recorded instance of a celebration was held in Charleston, S.C. by freed slaves at the conclusion of the Civil War on May 1st, 1865. However, it had been a custom in the North to commemorate slain soldiers for several years previously, although it wasn't referred to as "Decoration Day" until 1868. Michigan, in 1871, was the first state to make the event a state holiday, and by 1890, all other Northern states had followed their example. The term "Decoration" referred to the placing of flowers and flags on the graves of the honorees. In the South, various organizations were formed after the Civil War to establish and maintain cemeteries for slain Confederate soldiers.

The holiday wasn't referred to as "Memorial Day" until 1882, and both "Decoration" and "Memorial" were commonly used until after World War II. It was not until 1967 that Congress made "Memorial" the official name. Part of the traditional Memorial Day observance is the display of the American flag at half-staff from dawn until noon. Another traditional event, perhaps the longest-standing (since 1911), is the running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race, which takes place on the Sunday prior to the holiday. A more recent Memorial Day tradition is the National Memorial Day Concert, held on the U.S. Capitol's West Lawn. Memorial Day is also recognized as the unofficial start of summer.

Another tradition is the observation of a "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3 pm local time. 

The true meaning of Memorial Day too often gets lost in the celebratory atmosphere. The day is meant to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order for all Americans to have the luxury of living in freedom. Some gave all, please don't ever let them be forgotten.  

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