Today is Memorial Day, a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. On this day especially, many people visit cemeteries and memorials and many volunteers place an American flag on graves in national cemeteries.
Formerly known as Decoration Day, this holiday originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. Southern ladies organizations and many southern schoolchildren also decorated Confederate graves during the period immediately following the Civil War, and while there was great diversity in the practices by region, most of these dates were observed in May.
The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day”, which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.
For many Americans, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities all over the country. Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the National Guard and other servicemen participating along with veterans and military vehicles from various wars.