There is often confusion about Memorial Day relative to Veterans Day, which was first observed in 1926, to recognize and appreciate all veterans who have served our country- particularly those who are still with us. Memorial Day, which began in 1868, is focused on honoring those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice preserving our country and the freedom for which it stands.

The first large observance for Memorial Day was held in 1866 at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremony. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

More than one million American servicemembers have died in wars since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775. All Americans are direct beneficiaries of these sacrifices. Some specific actions you might take on this special day might include:

  • Visiting memorials
  • Visiting one of the 135 veterans’ cemeteries across the nation that protect the remains of our country’s fallen
  • Flying the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon
  • Volunteer or donate to non-profits serving survivors
  • Reading to children about the meaning of the holiday. Some books that are appropriate for children four to eight include:
    • Memorial Day by Mir Tamim Ansary
    • Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Martin Golding
    • The Wall by Eve Bunting

While this weekend is often considered the unofficial kickoff to summer, it’s important not to forget its true meaning and sentiment. We must never forget what these heroes have done and what their loved ones have lost.


Magellan Federal has a long legacy of service to military survivors which dates back 1879. We are honored to be a leader in supporting military survivors, providing surviving military families with information and compassionate case management that helps them navigate a very complex set of issues and benefits.