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Put Remembrance Back Into Memorial Day

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2001 – No matter where you are at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, take a minute to remember why Americans mark the day.

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The gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery are graced by U.S. flags on Memorial Day. DoD Photo.

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Memorial Day is more than just the beginning of the summer vacation season. It is not just the day the family goes to the beach or another convenient three-day weekend.

Memorial Day started after the Civil War. Often called Decoration Day, it was the day when families around the nation went to graveyards and placed remembrances upon the graves of those soldiers North and South who died in the conflict.

Unfortunately, through the years more men and women were called upon to sacrifice that Americans can enjoy their freedoms.

Today, America seems to have lost the "remembrance" portion of Memorial Day, according to Carmella LaSpada, White House liaison for the Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. LaSpada came up with the idea for the Moment of Remembrance in 1996. She asked children touring Washington what Memorial Day meant and they answered "That's the day the pools open."

LaSpada worked to put the "'memorial' back in Memorial Day" since then. Last year, the White House endorsed the idea of a National Moment of Remembrance and military installations around the world participated. Congress established the commission Dec. 28, 2000.

The White House, Congress and DoD all support the idea of a National Moment of Remembrance and urge all Americans to participate: At 3 p.m. local time, pause one minute to remember the Americans who died in service to the United States.

Participation is voluntary and can be informal. Many local radio stations plan to participate and will play "Taps" beginning at 3 p.m.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Memorial Day message encourages all service members to participate.

"On this Memorial Day, in gratitude for our country's blessings, let each of us pause in a national moment of remembrance for America's sons and daughters who gave the last full measure of devotion -- to recall their hopes, their dreams, their valor," he wrote. "Let us be inspired by their selfless idealism and pledge ourselves anew to do our part to ensure the children of today and tomorrow will not have to share in their suffering and sacrifice."

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Related Sites:
Memorial Day Message from the Secretary of Defense
Memorial Day Message from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

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