Community members gathered at the Tallahassee National Cemetery on Sunday to pay their respects to veterans who fought for our country.
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Sunday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. service members who died while on active duty.
First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.
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.
Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, June 28, 1968, which moved three holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday to create a convenient three-day weekend.
The holidays included Washington’s Birthday, Veterans Day and Memorial Day. 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.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Visiting National Cemeteries and veteran grave sites in public or private cemeteries ensures no veteran is forgotten.
Many people also observe the tradition of flying the United States flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time.
The Department of Veterans Affairs operates 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve and maintain more than 100 veterans cemeteries in 45 states, the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and on tribal lands.
For veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service.
In 2018, VA honored more than 351,000 Veterans and their loved ones with memorial benefits in national, state, tribal and private cemeteries.
Information on VA burial benefits is available from local VA national cemetery offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov, or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000. To make burial arrangements at any open VA national cemetery at the time of need, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.
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