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Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Died in US Military Service

NCSL also recognizes the hundreds of military veterans serving in the nation’s state and territorial legislatures.

By Jim Reed  |  May 24, 2024

This weekend, Americans pause to remember those who gave their lives while serving in the nation’s armed forces. Falling every year on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in all branches of the U.S. military—nearly 1.2 million military personnel in all conflicts since the Revolutionary War.

Memorial Day honors those who have died in military service, while Veterans Day in November honors all veterans living and dead.

After the 2022 elections, NCSL identified at least 748 military veterans serving in the legislatures of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories. These veterans make up about 10% of the 7,575 state and territorial legislators nationwide.

Military and Veterans Programming at Summit

NCSL will cover military issues and veterans affairs in several sessions at the Legislative Summit in Louisville, Ky., this summer. For more information, see the full Summit agenda.

  • Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force Preconference Meeting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Innovative Policies to Serve the Nation’s Veterans, Monday, Aug. 5, 2:45-3:45 p.m.
  • How States Are Breaking Up With ‘Forever Chemicals,’ Monday, Aug. 5, 4-5 p.m.
  • A State-Focused National Security Briefing, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 10:45 a.m.-Noon

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, this year featuring actors Gary Sinise, Joe Mantegna and Bryan Cranston and performances by Gary LeVox of Rascal Flats and several military bands and choruses.

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 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.

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