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On Memorial Day — and every day — VA honors those who served

As we recognize Memorial Day, we pause to remember, honor and express our gratitude to all those Veterans who lost their lives in uniform.

At VA, we use this day as an opportunity to reflect on the men and women whose sacrifices allow us to flourish as individuals and as a nation. As we do, we work to care for those Veterans who still stand with us and rely on us to help them in their times of need.

In history

Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.

After World War I, the day became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States. With the passing of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971, Congress established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May.

In remembrance

At our facilities and elsewhere, you’ll see many symbols that acknowledge and honor our departed Veterans.

We’ll begin the day by flying our flags at half-staff, a salute to the brave people who served and sacrificed all in service. In keeping with tradition and etiquette, those carrying our colors will raise the flag to the top of the flagpole (or “staff”), and then lower it solemnly to the halfway point out of respect for the fallen.

For those observing with your own flags, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only on Memorial Day, then again raised to the top of the staff until sundown. 

As you attend celebrations and remembrances, you may also see red poppies displayed prominently by Veterans and their supporters. Known as the “flower of remembrance,” the poppy gained popularity following World War I, when a Canadian surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, penned the poem “In Flanders Fields” and described the red poppies that grow between soldiers’ graves.

Now, artificial poppies are manufactured by patients and residents in VA hospitals and homes, with proceeds going to support those affected by war.

Perhaps our greatest acknowledgement will come at 3:00 p.m., when we will hit pause on our daily activities and take one minute to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have lost their lives fighting for the United States with the National Moment of Remembrance.

Whether alone or in a group, whether in silence or listening to the mournful notes of “Taps,” take this moment to acknowledge and spread the true meaning behind Memorial Day with your actions.

In service

As we reflect on Memorial Day, we work as we do every day — turning to our duties committed to making life better for the brave men and women who risk so much to protect our freedom and our country.

To honor the sacrifices of those who have passed, we strive to be the benchmark of excellence in health care by providing exemplary services to those who are still with us.

For all they have done, we believe it’s up to all of us to make sure Veterans can enjoy the health and happiness they deserve. To that end, we aim to recruit the best and brightest talent — physiciansnursessupport staff and administrators — to help us deliver exceptional care to our nation’s Veterans.

Whether developing more advanced treatments, enhancing support services or expanding access to state-of-the-art facilities where we can help our patients feel better faster, we believe our work pays tribute to those who have given so much in defense of our country.

Work at VA

As you remember the Veterans in your life and your community this Memorial Day, consider what it means to be part of a team that serves Veterans every day.

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