Memorial Day 2024: Honouring America’s Fallen Heroes

The example of Memorial Day in the USA can inspire a similar national commemoration for India’s war heroes.
Keywords: Memorial Day, Army, Heroes, War, USA, Inspire, National, Commemoration
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Each year Memorial Day is yet another occasion to honour America’s Fallen Heroes. It’s a solemn day that brings communities together and makes them reflect on the valour and dedication of those who fought for freedom, ensuring their legacy lives on in the hearts of all Americans.

“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours, the men it remembers” – President John F. Kennedy 

Every year the last Monday of May popularly called Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States. It holds a special place in the hearts of Americans as a solemn day of remembrance to honour the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in the Armed Forces.   

This year, Memorial Day 2024 was celebrated on 27 May as a powerful reminder of the price of freedom. 

Historical Roots of Memorial Day 

The origin of Memorial Day can be traced back to the American Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history that raged from April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865 (a little over four years). According to estimates anywhere between 620,000 to 750,000 soldiers representing roughly 2% of the entire U.S. population at the time died, and millions more were wounded. The conflict claimed more lives than any other war in American history. It necessitated the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries or mass burial grounds where veterans and their eligible family members could be buried. 

This gave rise to a widespread public desire to honour the fallen soldiers who had died fighting in the Civil War. People all over the country started decorating the graves of the fallen. Finally, General John A. Logan, leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued an order in 1868, establishing May 30th as a nationwide Decoration Day. This became a nationwide day of remembrance for the heroes of the Civil War. Accordingly, the first Decoration Day, was observed on May 30, 1868, as a day to pay homage to the graves of the soldiers who had died in defence of their country during the Civil War. The first large-scale observance occurred at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C. The GAR’s efforts, along with state proclamations, led to Decoration Day becoming a national tradition by the late 1800s.

After World War I the focus of the Decoration Day’s was broadened and it became a day to remember all American military personnel who had died serving their country. In due course the name Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day, to be observed on the last Monday of May.  

The tradition of honouring fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and flags quickly spread, and after World War I, the observance was extended to include all American military personnel who had died in all wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was officially recognised as a federal holiday by an act of Congress and it was moved to the last Monday in May, providing a three-day weekend for Americans. 

Memorial Day – the cost of war and peace 

It is a day of national remembrance, a time for reflection on the sacrifices made by military personnel, and an opportunity to express gratitude for the freedoms those sacrifices have secured. The solemn day also acts as a reminder of the costs of war and the value of peace. 

Memorial Day brings a poignant reminder of the profound sacrifices made by military personnel and their families. While the cost of maintaining peace is significant, it pales in comparison to the devastating impact of war. As we honour those who have given their lives, we should be reminded of our collective responsibility to work towards a more peaceful and just world. 

Memorial Day: National Observances 

The observance of Memorial Day is marked by various traditions and ceremonies. These include laying wreaths at monuments and cemeteries, parades featuring veterans and military units, and moments of silence. One of the most iconic Memorial Day traditions is the National Moment of Remembrance, observed at 3:00 PM local time, when Americans are encouraged to pause for a moment of silence to honour the fallen. 

One of the most notable observances of Memorial Day takes place at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where the President of the United States typically lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This solemn ceremony is attended by military officials, veterans, and families of the fallen. 

In addition to the ceremony at Arlington, many other national functions and ceremonies are held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., where thousands of visitors pay their respects. In several towns and cities Americans march down main streets in parades, featuring veterans, active-duty military personnel, and patriotic floats. Schools and local organisations host educational programs, to teach the younger generations about the significance of Memorial Day. 

Many families visit local cemeteries to place flowers and flags on the graves of loved ones who gave their lives. These personal acts of remembrance ensure that the memories of the fallen are kept alive in the hearts of those who knew and loved them.

The Symbolism of the Poppy 

One of the enduring symbols of Memorial Day is the red poppy. This tradition was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae during World War I. It describes the poppies growing among the graves of soldiers in Flanders, and it has become a symbol of the bloodshed in war and the resilience of those who serve. 

In 1920, the National American Legion adopted the poppy as its official symbol of remembrance. Since then, the red poppy has been worn on Memorial Day to honour the fallen. Veterans’ groups often distribute poppies in exchange for donations helping veterans and their families. The sight of red poppies on Memorial Day acts as a visual evocation of those who died in battle . 

Reflection and Renewal 

As the country faces new challenges, the lessons of courage, duty, and sacrifice embodied by the fallen provide a guiding light. 

The observance of Memorial Day also highlights the importance of supporting current military personnel and veterans. The sacrifices made by service members extend beyond the battlefield, affecting their families and communities. Ensuring that veterans receive the care, respect, and opportunities they deserve is a critical part of expressing gratitude for their service. 

Educational Initiatives

Educating younger generations about the significance of Memorial Day is essential for preserving its meaning. Schools and community organisations can play a major role in this effort by teaching children about the history of the holiday, and the importance of remembrance.

Incorporating stories of local heroes and veterans into school curricula can help personalise the lessons of Memorial Day. Field trips to memorials and cemeteries, inviting guest speakers, and carrying out projects focused on researching and honouring local service members can deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of the holiday.

The Future of Memorial Day

As time progresses, the ways in which Memorial Day is observed may evolve, but its core purpose will remain unchanged. The continued relevance of the holiday depends on the efforts of individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole to preserve its significance. 

Technological advancements offer new opportunities for commemorating Memorial Day. Virtual memorials, online archives, and digital storytelling platforms can help keep the memories of fallen service members alive for future generations. Social media campaigns and virtual events can also reach broader audiences and ensure that the sacrifices of the past are not forgotten. 


The example of Memorial Day in the USA can inspire a similar national commemoration for India’s war heroes. It will foster patriotism and strengthen national unity by educating the new generations about the trials and triumphs of India’s armed forces. 

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Neeraj Mahajan

Mr. Neeraj Mahajan is a media professional with over 30 years of experience in print, electronic, web and mobile media. He is the Editor of Taazakhabar News and World News Report.

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