memorial day flags cemetery

First celebrated as Decoration Day in the years after the Civil War, Memorial Day was designated a federal holiday in 1971.

Remembering and Honoring Those Who Died in US Military Service

By Jim Reed | May 27, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

This weekend, Americans pause to remember those who have given their lives while serving in the nation’s armed forces. Falling on the last Monday of May each year, Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in all branches of the U.S. military—more than 1.1 million military personnel in all conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the war on terror.

Memorial Day honors those who have died, while Veterans Day in November honors all military veterans living and dead. At its Legislative Summit in Tampa, Fla., last November, NCSL paid tribute to all military veterans.

Long-Standing Tradition

First celebrated as Decoration Day in the years after the Civil War, Memorial Day was designated a federal holiday in 1971. The day is observed with parades, flag displays and visits to veterans homes, cemeteries and memorials. A national moment of remembrance occurs at 3 p.m. local time, while 11 a.m. is designated as a moment for prayer and reflection. A long-standing tradition on public television—one that “unites the country in remembrance and appreciation of those who gave their lives for our nation”—is the National Memorial Day Concert, hosted by the actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna.

Other countries around the world also observe a similar day of remembrance, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, France, Turkey, Nigeria and Italy.

NCSL staff join their fellow citizens in lifting up, honoring and remembering those who have died in service to the nation and recognizing the sacrifices made by the families who have lost loved ones over the years.

NCSL’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs enables state legislators and legislative staff to assist military service members and veterans in their states and work with nearby military installations on key issues. Contact NCSL to participate in this effort.

Jim Reed staffs NCSL’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.

Additional Resources