Memorial Day is celebrated in the United States each May to remember and honor military men and women who died while serving in the nation’s armed forces. This differs from Veterans Day, which is celebrated in September to honor everyone who served in the U.S. military, whether or not they died in service. From 1868 through 1970, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30th each year. Since then, the official national Memorial Day holiday is traditionally celebrated on the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day began as a tribute to Civil War dead, and it was not until after World War I that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.” What a fitting reminder to all of us to learn about and tell the stories of our military ancestors who died in service.
Article By Kimberly Powell for The ThoughtCo.com