National Embarrassment: Only 43% Of Americans Know The Meaning Of Memorial Day

NEW YORK — Memorial day is all about remembering and honoring the brave men and women who selflessly gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Ironically and upsettingly, however, less than half of Americans know the meaning behind the holiday, according to a new survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.

In all, 2,000 Americans were surveyed, and 28% incorrectly stated Memorial Day is a holiday for all U.S. military veterans. In reality, the holiday they described is Veterans Day. Similarly, 36% admitted they struggle when it comes to differentiating between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Beyond just the meaning of the holiday, a similar amount of Americans have no idea when Memorial Day occurs each year. Just less than half (46%) didn’t know that Memorial Day is on the last Monday of May every year. Oddly, 21% said the holiday always falls on the last Sunday of May.

A Memorial Day survey was also held last year, and that time 55% of respondents were able to correctly state the holiday’s meaning. So, apparently as time goes on more and more Americans are forgetting. Additionally, half of those surveyed had no idea about the moment of remembrance (a one minute pause in which Americans are asked to stop what they’e doing and honor the fallen). Only 35% were able to name the moment of remembrance’s correct time (3 P.M. local time).

A full 50% had also apparently never heard of the term “gold star family,” which means a family who has lost a loved one in military service. But, once it’s meaning was explained to them, 55% are now planning on doing something nice for a gold star family.


“For many Americans, Memorial Day is a much-needed day off to relax and enjoy their family. It is important to understand that it is also a solemn day of remembrance. For me, as a combat veteran, and for military members and their families, this day holds great significance. Not everyone I served with was fortunate enough to return home,” says Brian Ishmael, senior director, University of Phoenix Office of Military and Veteran Affairs and former U.S. Army sergeant.

Despite all the ignorance surrounding the holiday, 83% of respondents still said they believe it is important to celebrate Memorial Day. Also, 87% said more should be done to honor both living and dead veterans, and 76% believe Memorial Day transcends politics. COVID-19 has forced 79% of Americans to change their holiday plans somewhat this year, but 78% are looking at the bright side, believing they have an opportunity to be more reflective this Memorial day.

So, how are Americans planning on celebrating this year? The top answer was flying a flag (43%), followed by leaving a flag or flowers on a military grave (30%), attending a local ceremony or event (30%), flying a flag at half mast (29%), and visiting a monument or memorial statue (27%). Others said they’re going to educate their children on the holiday (25%), wear a Memorial Day pin or button (24%), help a gold star family in need (22%), or educate themselves on the holiday (22%).

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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