Memorial Day is a holiday observed every year on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom while serving in the American Armed Forces—from Valley Forge to the Kandahar Province, from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli. First celebrated to remember, honor, and give thanks for the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, it was expanded after the Spanish American War and the First World War--though it was not until 1967 that Congress made the celebration a national holiday.
One of the earliest advocates of an official nationwide commemoration was Theodore Roosevelt. He asserted, “Remembering our heroes, the guarantors of our freedom, does not in any way more hallow their service or sacrifice; it does not in any way magnify the significance of their accomplishments in the protection and preservation of our liberties; it does not add to their valor, their honor, or their eternal reward; rather the great benefit of memorializing our American heroes is in the hope settled in our own hearts, the resolve established in our own souls, and the steadfastness confirmed in our own lives: when we remember who they were and what they have done for us all, only then will we be capable of laying hold of our hope and attending to our responsibilities as the trustees of freedom’s future; we look to the heroes of yesterday in order to insure that there will be heroes tomorrow.”