Friday, May 24, 2019

What Memorial Day Is Really All About


When I was growing up in the 1960s most kids and adults understood the true meaning of Memorial Day. Times have have changed when you fast forward to the present. It seems that now for many, this day of commemoration has been downgraded to simply marking a holiday that's a 3-day weekend officially kicking off summer and BBQ season with lots of shopping sales opportunities both online and in-store.

Memorial Day American Flag Vintage Cars

Losing Sight of  the Meaning of Memorial Day

The findings of a new University of Phoenix online survey of U.S. adults backs up that new reality: only about half of today's US adults can define the true meaning of Memorial Day. Just 55 percent of US adults described Memorial Day as a holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in our Armed Forces. To complicate things further, most Americans are confused between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the latter acknowledging and thanking living active and retired military personnel for their service and sacrifices made of behalf of our country.

While the holiday can be a much-needed vacation or a chance to spend time with family and friends, its intended purpose is to honor military members who gave their life serving in the armed forces. As a result of the survey, the University hopes to spread awareness and encourage Americans to remember fallen service members of every faith this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Military Cemetery

"Most Americans recognize that Memorial Day is a military holiday," says Brian Ishmael, senior director, University of Phoenix Office of Military and Veteran Affairs and former U.S. Army sergeant. "However, it is important to understand that it is a solemn day of remembrance. For me, as a combat veteran, and for military members and their families, this day holds great significance because not everyone I served with was fortunate enough to return home. We should enjoy Memorial Day, but we must also ensure that future generations understand and remember the sacrifices made protecting our freedoms."

Additional survey findings show that despite most Americans having ties to the military, the meaning of Memorial Day may be slowly eroding with each passing generation. More than three in five (63 percent) U.S. adults have themselves or have immediate family members who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. However, only 46 percent of adults aged 18-34 identified the correct meaning of Memorial Day versus 58 percent of 45 to 64-year-olds. Adults aged 65 and over were most likely to cite it as a day of honoring those who died serving in the Armed Forces (65 percent). 

Memorial Day US Flags

Ideas to Teach Kids About Memorial Day

  • Fly a U.S. flag at half staff
  • Attend a local patriotic parade, ceremony or event
  • Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance
  • Visit a military memorial or monument
  • Aid a family who has lost someone serving in the U.S. armed services

Annual Flag Planting Event

University of Phoenix has a history of dedication to military servicemen and women. To commemorate Memorial Day, the University annually plants flags spelling out a special message on the lawn of its Phoenix Campus as a reminder of the true meaning of the holiday. The tribute started 10 years ago after alumni students and employees felt that the purpose of the holiday had been lost. This year, the University planted 15,000 flags spelling out, “Their Legacy Lives On” which you can experience virtually through this drone video on the University's Facebook page. For more information, visit