What is the National Moment of Remembrance? This observation, which is held every Memorial Day (the last Monday in May each year) is intended to help Americans spend a brief, but significant time remembering the sacrifices of those who have died as a result of military service.
Some get confused over the meaning of certain military-themed or military-adjacent holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, the 4th of July, etc. The easiest way to keep Memorial Day and related events straight in your mind?
Remembering that Veterans Day is for all who have served, while Memorial Day is exactly what the name implies–a remembrance of those who have died. A memorial, dedicated to “those who have gone before”.
The National Moment Of Remembrance
How did this event get started?
The inspiration may have come from details of a story claiming that in the mid-90s, a group of children were touring a park in Washington D.C.
They were asked what Memorial Day meant to them. The reply? “That’s the day the pools open!” It’s no surprise that would motivate some to raise awareness of Memorial Day and of the sacrifices of those honored on the last Monday in May.
But the National Moment of Remembrance is not intended to replace Memorial Day–quite the opposite. It is exactly what the name implies–a moment to quietly and respectfully reflect on the people who have died in uniform or as a result of serving in uniform.
Who Established The Moment Of Remembrance?
The year 1996 is when the school children toured Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. and, as the story goes, set the idea for the Moment of Remembrance into motion.
A year later, a group called No Greater Love (A D.C.-based organization) organized the playing of Taps on Memorial Day as an effort to remind Americans about the meaning of Memorial Day overall. The effort was repeated over the next few years and wound up becoming a tradition.
And that move to make Memorial Day more visible caught on.
A White House Commission on Remembrance was created via Public Law 106-579, designed to raise awareness of Memorial Day. Known as the National Remembrance Act, this law was passed by Congress in 2000, and includes the following:
“…it is essential to remember and renew the legacy of Memorial Day, which was established in 1868 to pay tribute to individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States and their families”.
The Act states that “greater strides” are required to show the proper respect and appreciation to these veterans and that the Federal government “has a responsibility to raise awareness of and respect for the national heritage”.
Participating In The National Moment Of Remembrance
At 3PM local time on the last Monday in May, Americans are asked to stop for 60 seconds or one full minute to remember those who have died in service to their country.
A document published by the Department of Veterans Affairs states, “Participation is voluntary and informal” and those who make the observance have a variety of choices on how to do so. They range from a simple moment of silence to listening to “Taps”.
The observances can be more organized including group settings and formal observances of the moment.
VA.gov literature adds, “You may ring a bell to signify the beginning and the end of the Moment or may tune into a local radio station that is observing the Moment with the playing of “Taps.” If you are driving a vehicle, you may turn on your headlights.”
Again, the Moment of Remembrance is part of Memorial Day observances, not a replacement of them.
Why 3 P.M.?
The selection of the 3PM local time observance of the Moment is not a coincidence–it was scheduled for the time when most Americans were likely to be “making the most of the freedoms they enjoy” according to the National Moment of Remembrance archives from the Clinton Administration.
President William Jefferson Clinton went on the record about the National Moment of Remembrance back in 1999 when momentum was building to formalize it, saying, “As we contemplate the comforts and blessings of our lives and the well-being of our nation, I ask you to pause just for a moment to remember those who gave their lives to protect the values that give meaning to our lives.”
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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