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Many Americans see Memorial Day as an opportunity to relax in the yard, gather around the grill with friends, or plan a weekend getaway — and it usually is, even though the latter two traditions may be hindered by the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. But no matter how we choose to observe, it's important that we never lose sight of the day's significance.
With that in mind, here are five interesting things to consider while we're celebrating, and paying respects to, the men and women who died serving this country.
#1. We're all aware that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but Congress has also established an exact minute of remembrance. The National Moment of Remembrance Act, which was adopted in December of 2000, encourages every citizen to pause each Memorial Day at 3:00 p.m. local time to remember the brave men and women who died serving this country. In addition to any federal observances, Major League Baseball games usually come to a stop during the Moment of Remembrance, and for the past several years, Amtrak engineers have taken up the practice of sounding their horns in unison at precisely 3:00 p.m.
#2. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day is celebrated in late May because that's when flowers are likely to be blooming across the country. It was Union General John A. Logan who — after serving in the Mexican-American War and Civil War — proposed that Congress institute May 30th as Decoration Day (the predecessor to Memorial Day) to allow citizens to decorate the graves of deceased veterans with fresh flowers. (It's also believed that Logan settled on the date because it wasn't already the anniversary of any significant battles, according to History.com.)
#3. The Ironton-Lawrence Memorial Day Parade in Ironton, Ohio, is recognized as the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in the nation, beginning all the way back in 1868. However, the oldest (and first) Memorial Day parade in the country was held a year earlier in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. (It's also worth noting that both the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., and the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade in Queens, N.Y., each bill themselves as the largest Memorial Day parades in the nation.)
#4. "Taps," the bugle call typically performed at military funerals as well as the annual Memorial Day wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, was actually adapted from a separate Civil War bugle call known as "Scott Tattoo," which was used to signal lights out. But, according to both the "Arlington National Cemetery Legacy of Honor" by Jim Harris, as well as "Stories Behind the Hymns that Inspire America" by Ace Collins, the new melody later became the preferred accompaniment at military funerals after Captain John Tidball of the Union Army ordered his men to quietly play "Taps" at a fellow soldier's funeral, for fear that a traditional three-volley rifle salute would alert nearby Confederate troops to their location.
#5. For the first time in 20 years, the American Automobile Association (AAA) chose not to release a Memorial Day "travel forecast" in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which "undermined" the accuracy of the annual report, according to AAA. However, the organization predicted that 2020's travel trends would set a record low.
“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend — the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Paula Twidale, the senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a press release. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”