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


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.

Every day is Memorial Day for the families of our nation’s fallen heroes. TAPS cares for all those grieving the loss of a military loved one. Learn more at About TAPS.

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 it the official federal holiday name in 1967.

TAPS offers comfort and support to surviving families of military loss, including advocating for improvements to Federal Programs and services, along with advancing policy and legislation to strengthen the families of America’s fallen heroes. Learn more at TAPS Survivor Advocacy.

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.

TAPS International works to bring hope and healing worldwide to all those grieving the death of a loved one in defense of freedom, and to build stable societies for the surviving victims of conflict.

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.

Military surviving families will commemorate the day in a number of ways, including thousands of survivors gathering with TAPS at our annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Virginia.

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 or donate to support our mission.

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.

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.

At TAPS, we honor and remember those lost and support the families they left behind each and every day - no matter the relationship to the hero or how that hero died. We honor their life and service, and are committed to supporting their loved ones. Learn more about TAPS and ways you can support our nation’s military surviving families.

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.

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.

The USAA Poppy Wall of Honor created in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies. The exhibit will be on display near Constitution Gardens, northeast of the Lincoln Memorial, May 27 to 29, 2022.



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