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How to Celebrate Memorial Day

How to Celebrate Memorial Day

How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Memorial Day was born out of the horror of the Civil War, when more than 600,000 soldiers - Union and Confederate - fell in battle. Over the years it's become a day to honor all the men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom.

  • Many cities and towns lay claim to the origin of Memorial Day. One of them is Columbus, Mississippi, where many Union soldiers were laid to rest far from families who could care for their graves. Widows of Confederate soldiers, saddened by the neglected plots, gathered on April 25, 1866, to place flowers on the graves of their husbands' former enemies. Decoration Day, as it was then called, became an annual custom in Columbus and about two dozen other communities throughout the country.
  • In 1971, a Joint Resolution of Congress designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day and broadened its scope to include all military personnel who have died in service to the nation.
  • The first national celebration of Decoration Day took place on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery. After speeches by dignitaries, some 5,000 people, including Civil War veterans and children from the Soldiers and Sailors Orphan Home, walked through the cemetery reciting prayers, singing hymns and strewing flowers on the more than 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.
    1. Fly the American flag at half-staff.
    2. Travel to Washington. Tour some of the city's many memorials to fallen heroes, and attend the always-poignant ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
    3. Take in the National Memorial Day Concert on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. If you can't make it in person, tune into the PBS broadcast of the performance by the National Symphony Orchestra and a crew of special guest artists.
    4. Join in the observances at a military base or cemetery near you if you can't make it to Washington. Check your local paper, or call the closest military base, American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post to find out what's happening and when.
    5. Remember those who fought and lived to tell about it: Take some flowers, books or cookies to a nearby veterans' hospital.
    6. Continue a classic tradition: Put flowers and flags on the graves of departed friends and family - civilian as well as military. If you live far away from the final resting place of anyone you knew, decorate the grave of a stranger.
    7. Have your annual beginning-of-summer barbecue, or spend the three-day weekend at your favorite getaway spot, but take a little time out from fun and games to reflect on the day's real meaning and the fact that freedom isn't free.

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Jahn S. from Colorado

Thank you for remembering our veterans. We do appreciate it.

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