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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day in Washington: Remembering those who gave their all



Every year in the United States, Memorial Day is commemorated on the last Monday of each May. Designated as a federal holiday, it was originally intended to be a day to honor and remember the many brave and selfless individuals who have died while serving their nation. Unfortunately, over time, the true meaning of Memorial Day seems to have  gotten lost. Memorial Day has evolved to become a day where commercialism reigns.

But it's not just the sales. Memorial Day has also evolved as the "official" launch of the summer season. Beaches and pools open, many people throw parties, go to barbeques or head off on a mini-vacation to soak up the sun.  

As a result, the true meaning behind Memorial Day often gets undermined. However, there are still many communities across the nation that do still plan special events to commemorate the many brave individuals who have served in the U.S. military. Washington, D.C. is one of those regions.  Every year many commemorations and ceremonies take place that honor and pay respect to those who have given their all. 
 
World War II Memorial
World War II Memorial
Every year Rolling Thunder plans its annual ride commencing at the Pentagon, crossing the Potomac and ending in Washington. Hundreds of thousands will come from across the country to take part and honor POWs and MIAs. This evening actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will host the 25th National Memorial Day Concert to honor service members (the concert will also be televised on PBS).

This weekend many wreath-laying ceremonies will occur at many of the war and service memorials on the National Mall and throughout the city. A ceremony is also usually held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, just across the Potomac River. 
 
Changing of the Guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Soldier stands during The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery

Traditionally, at 2 p.m. on Monday, the annual Memorial Day parade takes place. This was a tradition begun in 2005, and many people will come together to pay respects to those who sacrificed so much. Every year participants and attendees from all over join in to honor and remember those who have given their all.
 
Float at July 4 parade in Washington, D.C.

On the outskirts of D.C., other ceremonies and parades are scheduled to take place. Tomorrow the city of Falls Church, Va., will hold its Annual Memorial Day Parade and Festival. The Memorial Day Commemoration in Sharpsburg, Md. also holds an annual tribute which includes a parade and wreath laying ceremony. The parade ends at the Antietam National Cemetery. Sharpsburg is about an hour and a half outside D.C.

While there is nothing wrong with celebrating the weekend with family and friends, and having a good time over the long weekend, let us all please remember to take a moment to honor and reflect upon those self-sacrificing individuals who have served and do currently serve in the military. All too often we hear the negative stories in the media, but it is rarer we read about the kindness and altruistic acts performed by individuals in the U.S. Military. The negative stories tend to quickly spread in the media or online, but there are many acts of kindness and goodness performed by U.S. military members that go completely unnoticed or misunderstood.

Thank you to all the individuals who have selflessly served their country with courage.  

You are not forgotten.
"We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies."
                                                     ~ Moina Michael, 1915

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery

Note: This post is an adaptation of a post originally published by myself at Digital Journal in May 2012.

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