Commission Urges Americans to Pause, Reflect on Memorial Day
By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2008 While Americans enjoy the traditional summer kick-off weekend with vacations, backyard barbecues, pool openings and picnics, the White House Commission on Remembrance is asking them to take a moment on Memorial Day to remember the true meaning of the holiday.
The National Moment of Remembrance was created “to provide a time of remembrance for America’s fallen and to make a commitment to give something back to our country in their memory,” according to the White House Commission of Remembrance Web site. The moment gives Americans a way to “participate in an act of national unity and demonstrate gratitude and respect for those who died for freedom since the founding of our nation.”
Congress voted in December 2000 to set aside 3 p.m. on Memorial Day as the National Moment of Remembrance.
“The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday,” the site explains.
According to a Gallup poll, only 28 percent of Americans understand the true meaning of Memorial Day, and the White House Commission on Remembrance is working to underscore the holiday’s intent, officials said.
Carmella LaSpada, director of the White House Commission on Remembrance, said she first noticed there was a problem when she was asked some children on a Capitol tour what the meaning of Memorial Day was and they answered that it was the day the pools opened.
Memorial Day, which began after the Civil War, is observed on the last Monday of May and has also been known as Decoration Day, a day when people went out to leave flowers or patriotic items on the graves of fallen troops.
Though it’s appropriate and encouraged for people to observe the moment privately, group observances are planned nationwide. In addition, Major League Baseball games are expected to pause, train whistles will blow, radio stations will play “Taps,” and bells will ring around the nation in observance of the Moment of Remembrance.