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May 23, 2006 > A day to honor our fallen heroes

A day to honor our fallen heroes

by Steve Warga

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have fallen in battle serving our country. Millions have died in defense of freedom and the dream of democracy. We honor them with parades, speeches and the bittersweet strains of "Taps."

Originating in memory of Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War, the ceremonies expanded after World War I to honor all who have lost their lives in any military action.

Nationally, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Historically, the president or vice-president will present some remarks and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Flag displays are encouraged on Memorial Day. Until noon, flags should fly at half-staff after first being raised to the peak. After Noon, they should be raised to the peak for the remainder of the day.

On December 28, 2000, by Public Law 106-579, the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance was established. The Moment has the personal support of the President of the United States. At 3 p.m. local time (duration: one minute) on Memorial Day, all citizens are asked to pause for a moment of silence. Not intended to replace traditional Memorial Day observances, the National Moment of Remembrance is a unifying act of remembrance for Americans of all ages.

As you participate in The Moment, you are helping reclaim Memorial Day for the noble and sacred reason for which it was intended: to honor those who died in service to our Nation. The time, 3 p.m., was chosen because it is the time when many Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.

The 2006 National Memorial Day Concert will be broadcast live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, May 28 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time. This year's concert will focus on two major themes: honoring the contributions of the "citizen soldiers" serving in the National Guard, and paying a tribute to the brave pilots who flew with the Air Force during World War II - including the more than 90,000 combat casualties and more than 30,000 men who lost their lives. For more information visit

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