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Memorial Day: Honoring our nation's heroes

For Hispanics, the date holds special meaning. Latinos have a history of military service in the country dating back to the Civil War.

Cementerio de héroes de guerra.


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Every last Monday in May, those who have died in combat or during military service in defense of the United States are remembered and honored. The date originally served to honor the 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War that ended in 1865. But after the end of the First World War this changed and it was decided to commemorate all the brave men who died serving their country.

However, it was not until 1971 that Congress officially declared it a national holiday, deciding that Memorial Day would be celebrated on the last Monday of May each year.

For Hispanics, the date has special meaning. Latinos have a history of military service in the country that dates back to the Civil War. Additionally, many Hispanics have been recognized for their service to the United States, which is described as "proud and enviable": "Hispanics have a proud and indeed enviable record of military service, dating all the way back to the Civil War. Whether their heritage can be traced to Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, or one of dozens of other Spanish-speaking countries or cultures, they've answered the 'call to duty,' defending America with unwavering valor and honor," explained the army's historical website.

According to the Army, currently more than 17% of US soldiers and 7% of Army civilians are of Hispanic or Latino descent:

Today, thousands of Hispanic-American Soldiers are fighting contingency operations throughout the world. Today, just as in generations past, Hispanic Soldiers -- both men and women -- can be especially proud of their significant contributions to the war effort and embodying the U.S. Army’s values that unite all service members as one.

How is Memorial Day celebrated?

Annually, the president or vice president of the United States usually gives a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, to honor the memory of soldiers who died fighting. From dawn to noon the nation's flag is placed at half-mast and in the afternoon Americans are encouraged to take a minute of silence for those who have fallen in service.

Many citizens also head to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where around 260,000 graves have been decorated with the country's flags to honor the 651,031 troops who died in battle between 1775 and 1991.