Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 31, 2021. It is a Federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May, and commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service.
Pay tribute to the U.S. men and women who died during military service by observing a national moment of remembrance with a minute of silence at 3:00 PM local time.
Discover the National Military Appreciation Month military discounts available all month long!
Memorial Day History
Memorial Day began sometime after the Civil War with both formal and informal ceremonies at graves and ceremonies for the soldiers who had fallen in battle. Many places claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866, including Waterloo, New York and both Macon and Columbus, Georgia. On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a Union veterans organization, established Decoration Day, May 30, as a time for the nation to decorate the dead with flowers. Arlington National Cemetery held the first large observance later that year.
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held throughout the country on May 30. Over time, the Army and Navy adopted policies for proper observances, and state legislatures passed proclamations designating the day. After World War I the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars, and in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day Versus Veterans Day
What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is meant for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle, or as a result of a wound sustained in battle.
Veterans Day is intended to thank all those who have honorably served in the military – in wartime or peacetime.
Memorial Day Facts
- Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day.
- The birthplace of Memorial Day is a debated topic. Cities such as Warrington, Virginia; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Savannah, Georgia; and Waterloo, New York are some localities believed to be the birthplace.
- Memorial Day was originally celebrated on May 30 until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971 and it was moved to the final Monday in May.
- 1971 is also when Memorial Day became an official holiday.
- Originally, only soldiers who had died in the Civil War were honored.
- The National Monument of Remembrance Act passed in 2000 requires all Americans to stop what they are doing at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who died while in service.
- The Poem “Bivouac of the Dead” is often recited on Memorial Day and inscribed on iron tablets throughout many of the country’s national cemeteries including the original entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. The poem was written by Theodore O’Hara to honor his fellow soldiers from Kentucky who died in the Mexican-American War. Bivouac (/ˈbivo͞oˌak/) – A temporary camp without tents or cover.
National Moment of Remembrance
The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event that asks Americans to pause for a moment of silence for a minute at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day. The 3 pm time was chosen, because it is the time when many Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday. It is intended to be a unifying act of remembrance for Americans of all ages. The National Moment of Remembrance Act became law in the year 2000.
There are many ways to observe the National Moment of Remembrance, both formally and informally. The moment of silence can be observed more formally at places such as a veterans cemetery, park, picnic ground and can include playing ‘Taps’, the military bugle call that reflects on the glory of those who have shed blood for us. A bell can also be rung at the beginning and end of the one minute of remembrance. If you are driving and unable to stop you can turn on your headlights for a minute.
2021 Memorial Day Schedule of Major Events
Virtual Memorial Day Events
- Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM)
- VLM contains a memorial page for each Veteran and service member interred in a VA national cemetery.
- VLM is now permitting online visitors to leave a comment of tribute on a Veteran’s page, a new way to observe Memorial Day.
- Create a Free Remembrance Plaque
- Together We Served is inviting any Veteran or Family Member to create a Remembrance Military Service Plaque, at no charge, to remember an Active Serving or Veteran Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coastguardsman who is now Deceased.
- National D-Day Memorial – 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. est on Mon. May 31st
- The Memorial will honor and remember those who gave their lives to the cause of freedom with a virtual online event. On-site visitors get free admission 10AM – Noon and can view the ceremony from a screen in the Bobbie G. Johnson pavilion.
- New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony – Online at 11:00 a.m. EST on Monday, May 31st
- Full virtual program will be broadcast across social media and posted on the website.
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Online at 1:00 p.m. EST on Monday, May 31st
- The 2021 Memorial Day Ceremony will be a live webcast. A small in-person ceremony will take place limited to 250 guests. Spots must be reserved in advance.
- Virtual National Relay
- Carry The Load’s Memorial May Campaign, in partnership with the VA, brings awareness to the service and sacrifice of our military, veterans, first responders and their families. Start or join a team or participate as an individual.
- Wear Blue to Remember/Team Red White and Blue (RWB)
- Join virtually, in honoring our fallen service members and their families’ sacrifice by wearing blue on May 31st.
- Parade of Heroes – 8 a.m. PT May 31
- Virtual Event on www.facebook.com/AncestryUS and later available on Ancestry.com
Check with your local veterans organizations, monuments, military bases and local governments for events. There are many virtual runs, ceremonies and observances being held locally throughout the U.S.
Memorial Day Events
Call ahead or check online for any in person events due to current circumstances.
- VA National Cemeteries
- Each VA national cemetery will conduct a brief wreath laying ceremony, accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of Taps. Ceremonies will not be open to the public but will be Live Streamed and posted here as they appear on May 25.
- Other public events typically associated with Memorial Day at national cemeteries, including group placement of flags at gravesites, will not take place. However, all VA national cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk for public visitation.
- Visitors are also urged to consider visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday to avoid possible crowds on Memorial Day. Families may continue the tradition of placing flowers and small American flags at their Veteran’s gravesite.
While the department can’t hold large public ceremonies, VA will still honor Veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice.VA Secretary Robert Wilkie
- See the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) announcement for more details.
- Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C.
- Flags In – Thursday, May 27, 12:00 p.m.
- National Memorial Day Observance at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Monday, May 31, 11:00 a.m.
- Air Force Memorial – TBD, Washington D.C.
- Dallas Memorial March, Dallas, TX
- Sunday, May 30th at 12PM – Monday, May 31st at 1:30PM
- Decorate your cars and show the families of those who have fallen that they will not be forgotten.
- Fleet Week – Memorial Events New York City, NY.
- Fleet Week 2021 will be virtual and runs May 26-31, 2021
- Parade of Ships – Cancelled
- 10th Annual Veterans Appreciation Day & Memorial Tribute Event – Cancelled
- Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Day Observance – Cancelled
- Intrepid Memorial Day Commemoration – Cancelled
- 153rd Gettysburg Memorial Day Parade & Ceremonies – Memorial Day, May 31, 12:00 p.m. ET, Gettysburg, PA. Cancelled.
- National Memorial Day Concert – Sunday, May 30, 8 p.m. ET, West Lawn of U.S. Capitol.
- Broadcast on PBS
- National Memorial Day Parade – Memorial Day, 2 p.m., Washington D.C. Cancelled.
- It will be replaced by a televised event, The National Memorial Day Parade: America Stands Tall.
- National Veterans Memorial & Museum – May 28 – May 31, 2021, Columbus, OH
- Special Memorial Day Events begin on Friday May 28th and run throughout the weekend.
- Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony Monday, May 31 10AM – 11AM
- Navy Memorial – Cancelled, Washington D.C.
- Rolling Thunder Ceremony
- First Reserve Assn. Ceremony
- NDW Wreath Laying Ceremony
- President Lincoln’s Cottage – Cancelled – Monday, 10 am., Washington D.C.
- World War II Memorial – Cancelled – Monday, 9 a.m., Washington D.C
Find a Memorial Day ceremony near you, 120+ VA National Cemetery events across the country. 2021 events will be added as announced.
Memorial Day Activities & Events to Honor Those Who Died
- Visit cemeteries and memorials.
- Attend Memorial Day ceremonies.
- Volunteer to place an American Flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
- Observe a minute of silence at 3:00 PM, local time.
- Attend a Memorial Day parade, festival, fair or concert such as the National Memorial Day Concert.
- Run for charity on Memorial Day weekend.
- Volunteer to support events such as the National Memorial Day Parade.
- Donate to veterans and military support groups.
- Wear Blue.
Memorial Day Quotes
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
~ George S. Patton
We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.
~ Francis Amasa Walker
The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.
~ Benjamin Disraeli
As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation’s wars.
~ John M. McHugh
Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.
For love of country they accepted death.
~ James Garfield
We come, not to mourn our soldiers, but to praise them.
~ Francis Walker
We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.
~ George S. Patton
And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
~ Lee Greenwood
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