Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 31, 2021. It is a Federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May, and commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service.
Pay tribute to the U.S. men and women who died during military service by observing a national moment of remembrance with a minute of silence at 3:00 PM local time.
Discover the National Military Appreciation Month military discounts available all month long!
Memorial Day History
Memorial Day began sometime after the Civil War with both formal and informal ceremonies at graves and ceremonies for the soldiers who had fallen in battle. Many places claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866, including Waterloo, New York and both Macon and Columbus, Georgia. On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a Union veterans organization, established Decoration Day, May 30, as a time for the nation to decorate the dead with flowers. Arlington National Cemetery held the first large observance later that year.
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held throughout the country on May 30. Over time, the Army and Navy adopted policies for proper observances, and state legislatures passed proclamations designating the day. After World War I the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars, and in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day Versus Veterans Day
What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is meant for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle, or as a result of a wound sustained in battle.
Veterans Day is intended to thank all those who have honorably served in the military – in wartime or peacetime.
Memorial Day Facts
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day.
The birthplace of Memorial Day is a debated topic. Cities such as Warrington, Virginia; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Savannah, Georgia; and Waterloo, New York are some localities believed to be the birthplace.
Memorial Day was originally celebrated on May 30 until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971 and it was moved to the final Monday in May.
1971 is also when Memorial Day became an official holiday.
Originally, only soldiers who had died in the Civil War were honored.
The National Monument of Remembrance Act passed in 2000 requires all Americans to stop what they are doing at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who died while in service.
The Poem “Bivouac of the Dead” is often recited on Memorial Day and inscribed on iron tablets throughout many of the country’s national cemeteries including the original entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. The poem was written by Theodore O’Hara to honor his fellow soldiers from Kentucky who died in the Mexican-American War. Bivouac (/ˈbivo͞oˌak/) – A temporary camp without tents or cover.
National Moment of Remembrance
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Poole
The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event that asks Americans to pause for a moment of silence for a minute at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day. The 3 pm time was chosen, because it is the time when many Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday. It is intended to be a unifying act of remembrance for Americans of all ages. The National Moment of Remembrance Act became law in the year 2000.
There are many ways to observe the National Moment of Remembrance, both formally and informally. The moment of silence can be observed more formally at places such as a veterans cemetery, park, picnic ground and can include playing ‘Taps’, the military bugle call that reflects on the glory of those who have shed blood for us. A bell can also be rung at the beginning and end of the one minute of remembrance. If you are driving and unable to stop you can turn on your headlights for a minute.
2021 Memorial Day Schedule of Major Events
Virtual Memorial Day Events
Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM)
VLM contains a memorial page for each Veteran and service member interred in a VA national cemetery.
VLM is now permitting online visitors to leave a comment of tribute on a Veteran’s page, a new way to observe Memorial Day.
Create a Free Remembrance Plaque
Together We Served is inviting any Veteran or Family Member to create a Remembrance Military Service Plaque, at no charge, to remember an Active Serving or Veteran Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coastguardsman who is now Deceased.
National D-Day Memorial – 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. est on Mon. May 31st
The Memorial will honor and remember those who gave their lives to the cause of freedom with a virtual online event. On-site visitors get free admission 10AM – Noon and can view the ceremony from a screen in the Bobbie G. Johnson pavilion.
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony – Online at 11:00 a.m. EST on Monday, May 31st
Full virtual program will be broadcast across social media and posted on the website.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Online at 1:00 p.m. EST on Monday, May 31st
The 2021 Memorial Day Ceremony will be a live webcast. A small in-person ceremony will take place limited to 250 guests. Spots must be reserved in advance.
Virtual National Relay
Carry The Load’s Memorial May Campaign, in partnership with the VA, brings awareness to the service and sacrifice of our military, veterans, first responders and their families. Start or join a team or participate as an individual.
Wear Blue to Remember/Team Red White and Blue (RWB)
Join virtually, in honoring our fallen service members and their families’ sacrifice by wearing blue on May 31st.
Parade of Heroes – 8 a.m. PT May 31
Virtual Event on www.facebook.com/AncestryUS and later available on Ancestry.com
Check with your local veterans organizations, monuments, military bases and local governments for events. There are many virtual runs, ceremonies and observances being held locally throughout the U.S.