Just over half of Americans actually know what Memorial Day is all about

Kaylah Jackson
May 22, 2019 - 12:49 pm
28 Infantry Division Annual Memorial Service

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Roles)

A little over half of the American public has an understanding of what Memorial Day is, according to a survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.

The Harris Poll done in conjunction with the university surveyed 2,025 adults ages 18 and older from April 9 to 11, 2019 and found 55 percent of U.S. adults say they know the purpose of Memorial Day.  Older adults, particularly 53 percent of those ages 55 to 64 knew the correct definition of Memorial Day in comparison to 46 percent of adults ages 18 to 34. 

Within the survey, 13 percent of adults self-reported as a veteran or are still currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Interestingly enough, 49 percent of adults in the surveyed revealed they had an immediate family member who has served.

While a little more than half of the adults described Memorial day as "a holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces," 27 percent of individuals believed the purpose was to honor all veterans. Three percent of those surveyed believed memorial Day was to honor all veterans and five percent were not sure about the real meaning.

"What I hope to get out of that is to be able to educate and I think the first part of educating is understanding theres a problem or an opportunity for us to improve," said Brian Ishmael, senior director, military and veteran affairs for the University of Phoenix. "Through our Memorial Day flag planting, we're able to get some of that. Planting that seed anywhere we can show people 'Hey, there's an opportunity. Let's take time out of our BBQ or whatever fun we're having and just recognize that people gave their lives for our freedom.

Five Interesting facts about Memorial Day

While the exact origins of Memorial Day vary by location, many states claim they were the first to observe the holiday, Memorial Day was officially declared a holiday by Congress in 1971 as a way to honor all those who have died in American wars.

Around the nation, the public participates in various ceremonies honoring fallen service members including flag placing at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. or attending patriotic marathons and parades on the west coast.

According to the survey, overwhelming, half the participants responded that they or their families "thanked a veteran" on Memorial Day while one in four U.S. adults actually attended a local event, flown a flag at half-staff or left flowers at a gravestone or memorial. 

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