For most Americans, Memorial Day evokes thoughts of three-day weekends and the unofficial beginning of summer.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Date and Time of National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day
- What is the National Moment of Remembrance?
- What Are You Supposed to Do During It?
But Memorial Day is also a sacred time of remembrance in the U.S. It’s the day each year when we take the time to remember all of those who’ve died serving and protecting our country.
And while most people in the United States recognize the Memorial Day holiday, not everyone is aware of the National Moment of Remembrance, which takes place on that day.
Whether you’re getting ready for this Memorial Day, or you’re just curious about the National Moment of Remembrance in the U.S., you’ll learn all about it below.
Date and Time of National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day
The U.S. holiday of Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday of May every year. The National Moment of Remembrance occurs at 3:00 pm on that date. Here are some of the exact dates for upcoming Memorial Days so you can mark your calendar.
- 2021: Monday, May 31
- 2022: Monday, May 30
- 2023: Monday, May 29
- 2024: Monday, May 27
- 2025: Monday, May 26
What is the National Moment of Remembrance?
The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event. It asks Americans to pause for a moment of silence at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day.
The National Moment of Remembrance is voluntary and informal, but you can choose to organize a more formal event with family and friends.
Everyone is encouraged to participate by pausing for one minute of silent reflection, wherever they happen to be and whatever they happen to be doing. To participate, all you have to do is stop your activities for 60 seconds.
The idea of a “National Moment of Remembrance” was born in May of 1996, after a school field trip sparked a nationwide conversation.
That’s when a group of school children was touring Washington, D.C. When asked what they thought was the meaning of Memorial Day, the children responded that the holiday was “the day the pools open.”
That same month, a Gallup Poll showed that only 28 percent of Americans knew the meaning of Memorial Day.
So many people were concerned and disheartened by these responses that the idea for a National Moment of Remembrance was born.
National Moment of Remembrance Act
Four years after the group of children revealed that Memorial Day had lost much of its initial intention, the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance came into existence. The Moment of Remembrance even had direct support from the President of the United States.
To establish the Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on December 28, 2000.
The National Moment of Remembrance Act states its purpose clearly:
“It is essential to remember and renew the legacy of Memorial Day, which was established in 1828 to pay tribute to individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice to the United States and their families…”
The National Moment of Remembrance is a nationwide act of unity and reflection. It helps to renew the original meaning of Memorial Day, which might have been lost along the way.
This unified moment of silence gives Americans everywhere the opportunity to express their gratitude. Most importantly, the National Moment of Remembrance reminds Americans of the lives lost fighting for their nation.
What Are You Supposed to Do During It?
Maybe you want to join other Americans in observing the National Moment of Remembrance. But what exactly are you supposed to do? How does the National Moment of Remembrance fit in with the rest of your Memorial Day celebrations?
The National Moment of Remembrance doesn’t replace traditional Memorial Day festivities. Instead, you can observe the Moment wherever you happen to be on that day.
Whether you’re alone or with others, at home or in the car, you can join your fellow Americans in a moment of silent reverence.
Below are some ideas for celebrating Memorial Day by joining in the National Moment of Remembrance.
Observing on your own
If you’re not one for Memorial Day picnics, pool parties, and BBQs, you can still join in the National Moment of Remembrance when you’re alone. Participation in the Moment is completely voluntary and mostly informal.
To join in the Moment of Remembrance on your own, just wait until the clock strikes 3:00 pm (your local time). Then stop what you’re doing for one minute.
With family and friends
If you’re around friends and family on Memorial Day, you can ask your group whether they’d like to observe the Moment of Remembrance with you.
If they’re not sure what the Moment of Remembrance is, take the time to explain its meaning and purpose.
When 3:00 pm comes, ask your group to stop what they’re doing for one full minute. You don’t have to pray or think about anything specific. Just remaining silent for one minute, together, is enough to show your gratitude for the National Moment of Remembrance.
Organizing a moment of remembrance
If you’re hosting a Memorial Day get-together, you can organize a more formal Moment of Remembrance. Let everyone know what will be happening at 3:00 pm, and ensure that everyone’s ready to observe a moment of silence when the time comes.
You might even designate a time beforehand to give a short speech about what the Moment means to you. You could mark the beginning and end of the Moment of Remembrance with an announcement or by ringing a bell.
Listen to “Taps”
Another way many Americans mark the National Moment of Remembrance is by turning on a local radio station. You can find one in your area that’s planning to play the military bugle call, “Taps.”
The melody known as “Taps” is unique to the United States Military. The historical bugle call sounds at funerals wreath-laying services, and memorial ceremonies for military personnel nationwide. Its first use dates all the way back to 1862.
By listening to or playing “Taps” for the National Moment of Remembrance, you can commemorate all of those who gave their lives serving the United States.
As mentioned above, the main event that sparked Congress to enact the National Moment of Remembrance was a group of children’s responses about the meaning of Memorial Day. When asked what they thought the purpose of the day was, the children responded that Memorial Day was “the day the pools open.” The National Moment of Remembrance went into effect, in part, to help children recognize the true meaning of Memorial Day.
If you’re observing the National Moment of Remembrance this year, consider getting the children involved. Let them know that Memorial Day is about more than just fun in the sun (and the final few weeks of school). Take the time to explain that Memorial Day is about honoring our country’s heroes.
Visit a cemetery
If you live near a military cemetery, you can pay your respects during the National Moment of Remembrance by bringing flowers to the grave of a fallen soldier. You could also place an American flag on the headstone.
Be there by the time the clock strikes 3:00 pm, and fall silent for one minute to participate in the Moment.
If you have a family member, friend, or loved one who died in the military, it’s the perfect opportunity to visit their gravesite. Spending the National Moment of Remembrance at the grave of someone you miss dearly can make it that much more meaningful.
Turn on your headlights
Not everyone has Memorial Day off every year. If you’re still out and about, carpooling, or commuting, you might be in your vehicle at 3:00 pm local time. If so, it’s acceptable to turn on your headlights as a sign of respect for the National Moment of Remembrance.
You can also turn on your car’s radio and find a station playing “Taps” in honor of the occasion. If you don’t find a station playing the honorary bugle call, it’s best to turn off the radio and observe a moment of silence.
What Does the National Moment of Remembrance Encourage Americans to Do?
The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to stop what they’re doing at 3:00 pm local time on Memorial Day to observe a moment of silence.
Whether you find yourself at work, at home, at a small get-together with friends and family, or at a large BBQ with everyone you know, you can join the rest of the United States in these 60 seconds of silent reflection.
- Carlson, Darren. “Americans have not forgotten Memorial Day’s Purpose.” Gallup. news.gallup.com/poll/2866/americans-forgotten-memorial-days-purpose.aspx%5d
- “National Moment of Remembrance Act.” 28 December 2000. Congress.gov. www.congress.gov/106/plaws/publ579/PLAW-106publ579.pdf
- “National Moment of Remembrance.” VA.gov. www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/docs/news/Moment_of_Remembrance.pdf
- Villanueva, Jari. “24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions: The Story of Taps.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/taps.pdf