(WCMH) — Many people across America think of Memorial Day as the official start of summer; a day to kick back, fire up the grill and enjoy a day off of work. The holiday’s true meaning, however, is to honor those who lost their lives to give you that freedom.

The origins of Memorial Day date back to 1868. It was first established on May 5th as Decoration Day, a time when Americans adorned the graves of fallen soldiers from the Civil War with flowers.

The holiday didn’t include all fallen service members until after World War I. At that time, it was expanded to honor all the fallen servicemen and woman who died in all American wars.

Memorial Day Community Calendar

A congressional act in 1971 then made it a national holiday, and shifted the day of celebration to the last Monday of the month of May. And in 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act which encourages all citizens to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember the fallen.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reminds you that Memorial Day “is a day 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 wounds sustained in battle.”

This is different from Veterans Day, which is “set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty.”

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