Since the end of the Civil War, Americans have been mourning our fallen soldiers this time of year. Although the holiday is only federally recognized since 1971, it began as a day of commemoration that was observed by local governments. Today, the holiday is observed on the last Monday in May. As a national holiday, Memorial Day creates a three-day weekend for federal employees. The holiday also honors all the American servicemen and women who died in the line of duty.
Although the day began as a local commemoration, the meaning of memorialization has evolved. Many people have a loved one who died while in service to the nation, and their pain is still fresh. For others, the day is a family gathering to honor a fallen ancestor who died many years ago. In either case, the day commemoration is framed as an honorable sacrifice for those who died during war, while others see it as a waste of time and life.
Throughout the country, people attend special events and pay tribute to fallen servicemen and women. Many wear red poppies and visit memorials. This solemn day often culminates in a national moment of remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. The moment is an opportunity for reflection, meditation, or prayer. The nation stands still at this moment to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy today.