Memorial Day commemorates all men and women who have died in U.S. military service. It’s not to be confused with Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of U.S. military veterans, or with Armed Forces Day, which honors men and women currently in service.
Memorial Day began a few years after the Civil War, in 1868. An organization of Union veterans established the holiday, then known as Decoration Day, as a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. From then until the present day, the solemn holiday has been formally observed at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which encourages Americans to observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time to remember those who have died in service. The holiday began as a way to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War, but the day now honors all U.S. veterans who have sacrificed their lives.
There’s a specific way to display the American flag on Memorial Day, according to the U.S. Flag Code: hoist the flag quickly up to full staff at sunrise, then lower to half-staff until noon, and then return to the top of the staff.