Memorial Day Allows Us to Celebrate Other Holidays

I heard a radio interview with the actor, Joe Mantegna who co-hosts the annual National Memorial Day Concert at the U.S Capital. Joe, who is a veteran, was discussing his personal involvement with this grand event and his family’s history in the military. He made a comment that really caught my attention.

I’ll paraphrase it:

Memorial Day is the holiday that allows us to celebrate other holidays.

I want to thank Joe Mantegna for that beautiful observation and his service for our country.

The sacrifice of our fallen soldiers and their families has provided freedom not only here in the U.S.; it has provided freedom around the world.

Memorial Day began in the Civil War era as various Decoration Day ceremonies for the fallen soldiers.  Many of our National Cemeteries were developed to respectfully bury the fallen soldiers of this war.  On May 30, 1868, Decoration Day began being celebrated on May 30th.  This date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle.  It is a celebration to remember our fallen soldiers nationwide which changed to Memorial Day during World War II.


The official recognition of Memorial Day came in 1967.  It was traditionally celebrated on May 30th every year until Congress moved it to a convenient 3 day weekend holiday under the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968. Since 1971, Memorial Day is now celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Please consider the traditions and etiquette for Memorial Day:

  • At sunrise, the U.S. flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position until noon. This remembers the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.
  • At noon, the flag is raised to the full staff position. The memory of the fallen is raised by the living who resolves not to let their sacrifice be in vain, to continue the fight for freedom, liberty and justice for all. (1)
  • The National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 P.M. local time.
  • Placing flags on the graves of our fallen soldiers and our deceased veterans
  • Many locations across the U.S. including my own community host a Memorial Day parade or ceremony to remember the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers.
  • The National Memorial Day Concert played from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capital.

On a recent trip to Washington D.C.; my family and I toured the various war memorials.  As we viewed the Vietnam Veterans Soldiers Memorial, a tour bus load of teenagers surrounded this statue while I attempted to photograph it.  Their tour guide got their attention and mine.  She asked the kids to observe the direction of the 3 combat soldiers; do you notice they are facing the Vietnam Wall?  They are looking toward their comrades and friends who died.   That was a powerful moment for me.  I am amazed at the attention to details by the artists when they designed this statue.

The following morning, our family visited Arlington National Cemetery.  This cemetery was established to bury soldiers following the Civil War. This cemetery has many of our fallen soldiers, veterans, presidents and extraordinary Americans who have served our country.  If you visit this sacred place, please visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the ceremonial Changing of the Guard which occurs every 30 minutes.  It is a moving ceremony performed by very disciplined and honorable soldiers around the clock.  This location overlooks our nation’s capital and it is a fitting tribute to our fallen soldiers.

Many LEO’s like me will be working this through the Memorial Day holiday.  Many officers will be assisting parades and ceremonies in their communities like mine.  We protect the descendants of our fallen soldiers, our veterans and many other ordinary citizens.  We swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States while defending our citizens at home.  I am asking you, the members of our honorable profession to take care of your well-being, practice safety on-off the job and value the trust the public has given us.

In our professional duties as a LEO, I’m asking you to behave like a professional, dress and look sharp, stand tall, be proud and salute those colors they are carried during this solemn holiday.  This is the holiday that allows us to celebrate other holidays.  May the God of your understanding, bless these great United States.


Stay safe and be well!

Sgt. St.Hilaire is LET’s police wellness contributor.  He is a police officer in a Metro-west suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He is a volunteer member of a regional C.I.S.M team.  He can be contacted by confidential email at: [email protected].  Follow him on Twitter: @NPD3306 or Linked In.  Sgt. St. Hilaire does not receive any compensation or consideration for any program, book or other resource that he recommends.

Editors Note: This article was originally published by LET May 28, 2012.