May 24, 2024 - News

Memorial Day's meaning

Illustration of a lone pole with an American flag, with the stars and stripes made up from fireworks in the sky.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Memorial Day is a long weekend for many and is seen as the unofficial start to summer, but the day is about more than cookouts, sales and patriotic parades.

Why it matters: The federal holiday commemorates military personnel who lost their lives defending the country.

  • It was originally called "Decoration Day" and was recognized as early as the 1860s after the end of the Civil War.

Reality check: Because Memorial Day is a solemn day to remember fallen service members, the Wounded Warrior Project advises people to say: "Have a meaningful Memorial Day," not "Happy Memorial Day."

By the numbers: Washington has six active-duty military installations, 55,155 active-duty personnel, 11,366 reservists, and, as of 2022, 469,565 veterans, per the state Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bottom line: Memorial Day is for recognizing fallen military who died in service, while Veterans Day honors all who served in the U.S. military, living and dead.

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