Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May (Credit: Defense visual information/ Public Domain)

Americans will celebrate Memorial Day on May 29, 2023. The federal holiday is observed annually on the last Monday in May. It honors all military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This includes the men and women in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

The first national Memorial Day celebration is credited to John A. Logan. On May 30, 1868, the former civil war general led a group of 5,000 to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. They placed American flags and flowers on the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Some historians believe Logan chose the date because it did not fall on the anniversary of any Civil War battle. Others think it was selected because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country. This would make it easy to decorate the graves.

General John Logan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (Left). Women with daisies in preparation for Decoration Day, 1899 (Right) (Credit: Library of Congress/ Public Domain)

By 1890, all the Northern States had adopted what was then called Decoration Day. But the Southern States continued to honor their dead soldiers on different days. They only began observing the holiday after it was extended to include the soldiers killed in World War I. Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana still have a separate holiday to commemorate their perished Confederate soldiers.

In 1968, the US Congress declared Memorial Day a federal holiday. The lawmakers also moved the date to the last Monday in May so that Americans could enjoy a three-day weekend. The change has caused the holiday to lose some significance. Kids think of Memorial Day as the start of summer, while adults see it as an opportunity to shop for bargains.

President Barack Obama observes a minute of silence on Memorial Day (Credit: Public Domain)

In December 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act to remind Americans of the holiday's real meaning. The law urges citizens to observe a minute of silence at 3:00 pm (local time) to honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the safety and freedom of the country. This Memorial Day, take a minute from your busy schedule to pay your respects to the fallen heroes.