Memorial Day

Remembering and Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day with Studies Weekly

May 21, 2019 • Studies Weekly

Because Memorial Day occurs during the bustling last few days and weeks of the school year, we sometimes overlook its importance. But the holiday is a powerful opportunity to connect students with the men and women who sacrificed all for the freedoms those students now enjoy.

According to, Memorial Day first started as Decoration Day in the years after the American Civil War.

“The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries,” editors of wrote about the day.

Because the Civil War affected so many families and communities gathered at these cemeteries during subsequent springs to honor these fallen soldiers and decorate their graves. Soon, most northern states made May 30th the official date for Decoration Day. Many southern states honored their dead on other dates until World War I.

After WWI, Decoration Day expanded to include all American military personnel who died in all wars or conflicts. Gradually Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day. In 1968, Congress declared it a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May. This change went into effect in 1971.

Memorial Day
Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Lilly pays his respects to a fallen veteran May 28, 2013, at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Boulder City, Nevada. Lilly and other Airmen from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., volunteered their time to place flags over veterans’ cemetery plots for Memorial Day weekend. Lilly is a 57th Operations Group joint terminal air controller. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Daniel Hughes)

Today, American soldiers continue to serve, fight and die for freedoms across the world, and Memorial Day is still an important commemoration for their loved ones. Many families and communities decorate graves, hold solemn ceremonies, or host parades.

Studies Weekly has excellent materials about Memorial Day. From a simple description for younger grades on why we celebrate Memorial Day, to state-specific information about unique Memorial Day celebrations, you will find ideas for teaching and celebrating the day throughout our print publications and online platform.

Some of the most effective learning, though, can be through the voices of those who fought to preserve our freedoms. Our extensive library of video interviews with war veterans gives students a profound appreciation of those sacrifices.