Memorial Day

A national observance on the last Monday in May
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Memorial Day commemorates all the women and men who have died while in military service and will be observed this year on May 31, 2021, the last Monday in May as designated by Federal law (36 U.S.C. 116).

“All across our wonderful country, in crowded cities and country towns, America bows its head today in thanks to our fallen heroes. With flags at half-mast, with flowers on a grave, with colorful parades, with quiet prayers, we take this time to remember their achievements and renew our commitment to their ideals….As we honor the brave sacrifices in battle that grace our Nation’s history, let us also remember to honor those who served in times of peace, who preserve the peace, protect our interests, and project our values.”

Begun in the late 1860’s as Decoration Day, spring flowers were distributed at graves to honor those fallen in the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century, ceremonies were being held in cities across the country. In 1966, the Federal Government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. (Source: Department of Veterans Affairs )

Public Law 106-579, signed into law December 28, 2000, designated 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day each year as the ‘‘National Moment of Remembrance” and created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

Like President Grant in 1873, Presidents have continued to commemorate those who have died in service to the country by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and speaking to the nation. Search govinfo to read other President’s Memorial Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery, in the Compilation of Presidential Documents collection.

 Stereograph of President Ulysses S. Grant and General John Logan seated at the flag-draped Old Amphitheater, Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia for Decoration Day ceremonies on May 30, 1873, Source: Library of Congress

Stereograph of President Ulysses S. Grant and General John Logan seated at the flag-draped Old Amphitheater, Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia for Decoration Day ceremonies on May 30, 1873, Source: Library of Congress

President Clinton Observing Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, VA, May 25, 1998.

President Clinton Observing Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, VA, May 25, 1998.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)


President George W. Bush attending a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery with Military District of Washington commander Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, Jr., USA, in Arlington, VA, May 26.

President George W. Bush attending a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery with Military District of Washington commander Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, Jr., USA, in Arlington, VA, May 26, 2008.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2008, Book I)

About Featured Content Articles – This series of articles aims to highlight content available in govinfo related to various national observances, commemorations, anniversaries and more. See more featured content articles.

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