Honoring All Those Who Have Served and Died

"Who is Memorial Day for? It's for all of us. It's for all Americans to remember we enjoy our many freedoms because of a brave few who dedicated their lives to this country and who died much too soon from wounds seen and unseen." ~ Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder




As the leading national nonprofit providing comfort and care for the families of America’s fallen heroes, TAPS honors those who have served and sacrificed on Memorial Day and every day. We are connected by a common thread, and we are part of a larger American legacy of grief and loss. On Memorial Day, we honor the holiday as a day of reverence and remembrance, shining a light on all who have served and died. On this page we have put together some resources, stories and military related observance events happening in the month of May to help you spread awareness about TAPS and the significance of Memorial Day. #honorthem | #morethanmemorialday


Frequently Asked Questions About Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States observed on the last Monday of May. It is a national day of remembrance for honoring all who served in the military and died; whether in combat, line of duty, illness, or wounds seen and unseen. The day offers a chance to reflect on the unique lives of these heroes and their ethos of selfless service.

The holiday has its roots in the American Civil War with many communities holding memorial tributes to the war dead and decorating graves of fallen troops. It was first celebrated on a national scale in May 1868 and called Decoration Day. The time of year was chosen because it wasn't the anniversary of any particular battle and flowers would be blooming for use in decorating graves. The term "Memorial Day'' became commonly used throughout the 20th century and by act of Congress made the official federal holiday name in 1967.

Veterans Day recognizes all who have served in the military. Many veterans organizations lobbied in the 1950s to reconstitute the Armistice Day holiday as Veterans Day. It shifted focus greatly then from memorial observances of deceased war veterans to more opportunities for recognizing our living veterans while they are still with us.

Armed Forces Day celebrates all the military branches and those currently serving in them. It could be thought of as the ultimate joint birthday party. In lieu of celebrating several individual service days, President Truman and other senior leaders decided on a single day to herald the strength and legacy of our joint defense force.

No. Several countries have a day set aside to honor their military dead. Some include paying tribute on these days to civilians killed during war conflicts or in acts of terrorism.

Over the holiday weekend, many communities hold special events including parades, wreath layings, and flag displays at cemeteries. It is customary to visit military graves and memorials. Traditionally, the President of the United States and/or members of the administration take part in the National Memorial Day Observance ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The National Memorial Day Parade Washington, D.C. follows this event. In unity, all Americans pause for one minute at 3 p.m. as part of a National Moment of Remembrance to reflect upon the sacrifices made for our freedoms.

Arlington certainly maintains preeminence as the country's hallowed grounds with its setting adjacent to the nation's capital. It has the distinction of being the only American cemetery with service members from every major U.S. conflict.

There are, however, almost 200 United States national cemeteries for military personnel both in the country and abroad. In addition to national cemeteries, there are also state run veterans cemeteries and even some managed by tribal governments. And of course, many of our nation's veterans are interred in private cemeteries too.

Learn more about veteran funeral honors and memorial benefits via TAPS Casework.

You can visit gravesites at Arlington virtually now through their online ANC Explorer - Arlington National Cemetery Find A Grave. Thanks to volunteers, this feature now includes photographs of most of the cemetery’s grave markers including the niche wall and Columbarium.

Get involved with TAPS! One of the most meaningful ways to show we never forget the service and sacrifice of our nation's heroes is by caring for the families they left behind. Learn the many ways you can make a difference, including virtual options. 

Take part in a TAPS Facebook fundraiser to support surviving families of the fallen. You can find a list of active fundraisers on TAPS Facebook page

Visit a cemetery near you to pay respects to local heroes who served and died. 

Fly an American flag at your home or business. It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half-staff until noon then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.

It's ok to fly the burial flag. Here's what you should take into consideration beforehand though to avoid adverse effects to an irreplaceable keepsake:

  • First, before you do anything you have to be ok knowing if the burial flag gets damaged, the Department of Veterans Affairs will not replace it.
  • Burial flags are made of 100% cotton and much larger in size - 5 x 9 ½'. They can be easily damaged when exposed to the elements, humidity, or even improperly stored. Do not fly them in inclement weather.
  • You need enough space and correctly mounted hardware to ensure this size flag can fly unencumbered outdoors.
  • Be sure it is completely dry before storing in order to prevent mold and mildew.

A great option for any tribute flag like this is donation to a VA cemetery for their “Avenue of Flags”. This patriotic display honors all the nation’s veterans and includes donated burial flags.

The World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrae, captured the powerful imagery of red poppies blooming on heavily torn up battlefields in Europe. The flowers seemed to represent the voices of those who’d fallen there; piercing otherwise fallow soil so as not to be forgotten. The poem became a customary part of memorial events and many soon came to associate the red poppy with remembrance of war dead. National campaigns after the war used this symbolism to raise money for charitable efforts supporting veterans.

Yes. Our military heroes served to ensure we can enjoy our American way of life. Memorial Day therefore can include taking part in freedoms the exchange of their years preserved. And there's no reason such activities can't become a platform to incorporate the real meaning of Memorial Day. They offer great opportunities to speak the names of the fallen, share their stories, and support their families.

You are never going to startle someone with the reminder that someone they love died. People simply don’t forget those they have loved. A wonderful way you can show your appreciation to families of the fallen is by recognizing their hero, even while dead, is still: their spouse, their parent, or their child. Death ended a life, not a relationship. So, say their name. Talk about them. Memorial Day is not about avoidance. Memorial Day is about remembrance. And every day is Memorial Day to families of the fallen.


Engage with Us


Honoring Your Loved One


Activities on Memorial Day Weekend


May Calendar


Banner photo courtesy of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Public Affairs Office photo by Rachel Larue.