Memorial Day 2015: The Real Story Behind the Holiday

PHOTO: Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment place American flags at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day, in Arlington, Va., May 21, 2015.PlayGetty Images
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Memorial Day Weekend usually conjures up images of backyard parties, beaches and beer.

But Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer. It's actually been an official national holiday for over 40 years aimed at remembering those who served in the armed forces.

Here is a brief look at the history behind the holiday and how people are expressing the true meaning of Memorial Day through photos on social media.

A few years after the end of the Civil War, May 30 was established as "Decoration Day" -- a day to decorate veterans' graves with flowers. May 30 may have been chosen because by that time flowers would be in bloom throughout the country, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday and placed on the last Monday in May, the VA website says.

In December 2000, the president signed into law The National Moment of Remembrance Act.

"The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation," the VA website says.