Memorial Day sparks images of sizzling hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill along with sides of baked beans, potato salad, and flag-decorated desserts. This day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. 

But Memorial Day also serves as an opportunity to reflect as we honor the brave Americans who fought for our freedom. The holiday is a sacred time of remembrance, and it is the day when we take the time to remember those who’ve died serving and protecting our country. 

Most people in the United States celebrate the holiday, but only some are aware of the National Moment of Remembrance, an annual event in which Americans pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day. 

The National Moment of Remembrance, although voluntary, encourages everyone to participate by pausing for one minute of silent reflection. You only need to stop your activities for 60 seconds. 

The National Moment of Remembrance idea occurred in May 1996 after a school field trip ignited a nationwide conversation.

When a group of schoolchildren touring Washington, D.C., were asked what Memorial Day meant, the children answered that the holiday was “the day the pools open.”

Also, during same month, a Gallup poll showed that only 28% of Americans knew the meaning of Memorial Day. 

These responses disheartened many people. Four years later, the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance came into existence. To establish the commission, Congress declared: 

"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 national act of unity and reflection. This moment of silence gives Americans the opportunity to express their gratitude. More importantly, the National Moment of Remembrance reminds us of the lives lost fighting for our nation. 

The National Moment of Remembrance doesn’t replace traditional Memorial Day festivities, such as parades and picnics. Instead, you can observe the moment wherever you are on that day. You can join your fellow Americans in 60 seconds of silent reflection, whether alone or with others. 

How does the National Moment of Remembrance fit in with your Memorial Day celebrations?


Observing on Your Own

You can still join the National Moment of Remembrance if you’re not one for Memorial Day picnics, pool parties, and barbecues. Participation in the moment is entirely voluntary.

To join the Moment of Remembrance on your own, wait until the clock strikes 3 p.m. local time. Then stop what you are doing for one minute.


With Family and Friends

If you are with family and friends on Memorial Day, ask your group whether they’d like to observe the Moment of Remembrance with you. If they do not know about this, take the time to explain its meaning and purpose. 

When 3 p.m. comes, ask your group to stop their actions for one full minute. You don’t have to pray or think about anything specific; just remaining silent for one minute shows your gratitude. 


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.

If you have a family member, friend, or loved one who died in the military, it is the perfect opportunity to visit their gravesite. Spending the National Moment of Remembrance at the grave of someone you miss dearly can make it much more meaningful. 

When the clock strikes 3 p.m., fall silent for one minute to participate in the moment. 

May this Memorial Day be a remembrance of those who sacrificed all for our freedom so that we can enjoy the traditional festivities.


Nancy J. Schaaf, a retired RN, worked as a school nurse, a nurse supervisor at a men’s prison, and a health educator. She earned her BSN at Edinboro University. She is a freelance writer whose health articles appear in magazines throughout the U.S. and Canada. She can be reached at

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