The unofficial start of summer, a
three-day weekend for government employees, and an excuse for used car
markdowns -- the last Monday in May is recognized in many ways in the United
States. But at its core, Memorial Day is intended to be a day of remembrance
for those who have died in our nation's service.
Proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General
John Logan, Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were
placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National
Cemetery. It is now celebrated in almost every state by the enactment of
the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363).
Flying a flag at half-staff, attending
a parade or memorial service, and pausing for a moment of silence are all
powerful symbolic ways to mark Memorial Day. But we should also challenge
ourselves to do more than just the symbolic remembrance of those who have died;
we can use the holiday as an occasion to ask what we can do to better support
the survivors of conflict and the bereaved.
Traditional observance of Memorial day
has diminished over the years. Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and
traditions of Memorial Day. The graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored
and neglected, flag etiquette is not followed. While there are towns and cities
that still hold Memorial Day parades, many others have not had any formal
recognition in decades. Others have distorted the day as one for honoring
any and all dead, not just those fallen in service to our country.
This year, More
than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at VA’s national
cemeteries with color guards, readings, bands, and choir performances. Events
will honor about one million men and women who died in the military during
wartime, including about 655,000 battle deaths.
Special activities include color guards,
bands, choirs, moving oratory, historic displays, the display of the
"Avenue of Flags" or the placement of individual gravesite flags.
Most events are sponsored by community, patriotic and civic groups in
cooperation with national cemetery staff. Go to Memorial Day for a listing of