USAA Reminds Americans About True Meaning of Memorial Day

TND - May 27, 2024 8:19 am

USAA has brought its Poppy Wall of Honor back to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as a way to honor our fallen service members and educate the public on the true meaning of Memorial Day.

The 133-foot-long display can be seen through Sunday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial between the Reflecting Pool and Korean War Memorial.

USAA said the wall honors the more than 600,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to our country since World War I.

And this year’s display holds extra significance, with the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in less than two weeks.

The origins of Memorial Day go back to the Civil War, America’s deadliest conflict.

Today, Memorial Day can mean a lot of different things for folks.

It’s a three-day weekend. Some people hold barbecues, shop at sales, or travel for vacation.

But USAA doesn’t want the holiday’s true meaning to get lost.

A new USAA survey found that less than half, though a plurality, of people answered that Memorial Day’s primary purpose is to honor those who have died in service to the nation.

A third of people ages 18-34 said honoring our fallen military members is Memorial Day’s primary purpose. Forty-six percent of people 35-54 gave that answer to the survey, as did 53% of people 55 and older.

About 30% of people said the holiday is meant to honor all military service members, living or dead.

Others said the holiday is intended to show appreciation to military members or veterans for their service, while others said it’s about showing pride in being an American.

Eight percent said they weren’t sure about Memorial Day’s main purpose.

Army Maj. Gen. (Ret.) John Richardson, senior vice president and head of military affairs at USAA, said Friday that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are sometimes conflated.

Veterans Day in November is an opportunity to celebrate military veterans and current service members, he said.

“But Memorial Day, on the other hand, that we celebrate in May, is solely dedicated for Americans to take pause and remember and honor the sacrifice of those who gave their life in service of this country, for our freedoms and for our way of life,” Richardson said.

Army Maj. Gen. (Ret.) John Richardson, senior vice president and head of military affairs at USAA, talks Friday, May 24, 2024, about the true meaning of Memorial Day and why they brought the Poppy Wall of Honor back to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (TND)

When he was in the Army, people would wish Richardson a “Happy Memorial Day” or thank him for his service.

“That was well-intentioned,” he said. “It was sincere. And I did appreciate it. But (Memorial Day) wasn’t about the currently serving. It is about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Richardson said Americans can observe Memorial Day with simple acts, such as wearing a poppy, flying an American flag at half-staff, or visiting a veterans’ cemetery or local war memorial.

“And then on Memorial Day, we all have the opportunity at three o’clock local (time) to observe a national moment of silence for those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

The USAA Poppy Wall of Honor first appeared on the National Mall in 2018.


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