National Moment of RemembranceUpdated: June 29, 2022
Americans observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. every Memorial Day (the last Monday in May). It is intended to help Americans spend a brief, but significant time remembering the sacrifices of those who died as a result of military service.
The purpose of Memorial Day is exactly what its name implies — a remembrance of those who died or a memorial dedicated to “those who have gone before.”
So what, then, is the National Moment of Remembrance?
The National Moment of Remembrance
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs’ “National Moment of Remembrance” fact sheet, the inspiration came from a group of children who were touring Washington, D.C. When they were asked what Memorial Day meant to them, they replied, “That’s the day the pools open!”
The National Moment of Remembrance is not intended to replace Memorial Day. The VA says that the purpose is to “reclaim Memorial Day for the noble and sacred reason for which it was intended – to honor those who died in service to our Nation.
Who Established the National Moment of Remembrance?
The school children toured Washington, D.C., in May 1996 and, as the archived White House’s fact sheet explains, this set the idea for the Moment of Remembrance into motion.
The following year, a national Washington, D.C.-based group called No Greater Love organized the playing of “Taps” on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. at several locations across the country, as an effort to remind Americans about the meaning of Memorial Day overall. No Greater Love repeated the effort in 1998 and 1999, and it caught on.
Congress passed the National Moment Remembrance Act Dec. 28, 2000. The findings include that “it is essential to remember and renew the legacy of Memorial Day, which was established in 1868 to pay tribute to individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States and their families.”
In addition, Congress found “greater strides must be made” to show the proper respect and appreciation to these veterans, and “the Federal Government has a responsibility to raise awareness of and respect for the national heritage.”
Participating in the National Moment of Remembrance
At 3 p.m. local time on the last Monday in May, Americans are asked to stop for 60 seconds or one full minute to remember those who have died in service to their country.
While participation is voluntary, the VA fact sheet suggests a variety of ways in which you can observe the moment. These include pausing for a simple moment of silence. listening to “Taps” or attending an organized group setting. If you are driving a vehicle, the VA suggests turning on your headlights in observance of the moment.
And remember, the National Moment of Remembrance is part of Memorial Day observances, not a replacement for them.
Why 3 p.m.?
According to the archived White House fact sheet, 3 p.m. was chosen to observe the National Moment of Silence because it is a time when most Americans would be “making the most of the freedoms we enjoy.”
In 1999, when momentum was building to formalize the National Moment of Remembrance, President Bill Clinton said, “As we contemplate the comforts and blessings of our lives and the well-being of our nation, I ask you to pause just for a moment to remember those who gave their lives to protect the values that give meaning to our lives.”
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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