Honoring those who paid ultimate sacrifice in military service goes back thousands of years in history, across multiple countries. In the United States, the day of honoring the fallen is observed as a federal holiday known as Memorial Day.

Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971 by an act of Congress and is observed the last Monday of May to create a three-day annual federal holiday weekend. Many oppose this long weekend, and feel Memorial Day should be returned to its original date of May 30 regardless of what day of the week this date falls on; similar to that of Veterans Day (November 11). Memorial Day should not be thought of as simply a long weekend holiday off work for going to the beach and grilling, but should be felt for the deeper and more somber meaning behind it.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868; National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic John A. Logan issued what was known as General Order Number 11. This order designating May 30 as a Decoration Day to honor those who had died while serving in the Civil War. This date was chosen for two reason; it was not the date of any particular battle, and flowers would be in plenty and in bloom all over the country. General James Garfield gave a speech on the first Decoration Day, which was attended by over 5,000 participants who decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first state to officially recognize Decoration Day was New York in 1873. By 1890, Decoration Day was recognized by all northern states with the south refusing to acknowledge the day; honoring their dead in their own way. This was until after World War I, when what we now know as Memorial Day was expanded from those who died serving in the Civil War to include honoring those who had died in all American Wars or while otherwise serving their country in the United States Armed Forces.

Every year on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, the President of the United states (or, in his absence, another high-ranking government official) honors all those Americans who have died in military service to their country by placing a wreath during a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The President also requests that all governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico direct that flags be flown half-staff until noon on Memorial Day on all government and military buildings, grounds and naval vessels.

This year on Memorial Day, please observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time. This Public Law (106-579) was passed by President William J. Clinton on December 28, 2000 and asks that all Americans remember the ultimate sacrifice made by so many in the name of freedom and for our Nation by “Voluntarily and informally observing in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect by pausing in an act of national unity from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening of Taps.” This resolution came about after a group of school children were touring the Nation’s Capitol and were asked by the Commission’s Director, “What does Memorial Day mean?” The children answered it was the day the pool opens. A further poll revealed that less than 28% of Americans knew the true meaning of Memorial Day. Numerous organizations participate in this Moment of Remembrance with Major League Baseball halting all games at this time, and approximately 200 Amtrack train whistles blowing across the country.

Please join Sign-Express and all of its employees in honoring and thanking the men and women who have paid the ultimate price in defending our great country. We thank you for your service and sacrifice.


Authored by: Kelli James – Project Management