(CNN)Memorial Day is meant to be one of the most solemn American holidays.
First known as "Decoration Day," it began three years after the end of the Civil War, when a former Union general called for a way to remember fallen service members. For decades, Americans marked the holiday on May 30. In 1971, the federal government officially designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.
Here are ways you can honor those who have given their lives for this country.
According to the Memorial Day Foundation, there are specific customs for paying respect to fallen service members on Memorial Day:
- Flying the US flag at half-staff until noon
- Observing a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time
- Placing flags or flowers on veterans' graves
How to help:
Here are some charities aiding families of service members who died serving their country:
- The Comfort Crew for Military Kids: Provides resources to help military kids and their families connect and build resiliency.
- Tragedy Assistance Program: Offers a variety of programs to those grieving the death of a loved one serving in our Armed Forces.
- The National Military Family Association: Acts as a "voice" for military families and is the "go to" source for government officials seeking to understand the issues facing spouses and children of those serving in the armed forces.