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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Memorial Day in D.C.: Honoring 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 into a day where commercialism reigns.

But it's not just the sales. Memorial Day has also evolved into 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 is secondary. However, there are still many communities across the nation that do plan special events to commemorate the many brave individuals who served in the U.S. military. Washington, D.C. has many events. 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

Wreath-laying ceremonies take place at many of the war and service memorials on the National Mall and throughout the city. In Arlington Cemetery there is a ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater and also a tribute is held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Please keep in mind you'll need to get there early and go through security. Arlington Cemetery is located just across the Potomac River from D.C., minutes away.

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

Every year Rolling Thunder plans its annual ride commencing at the Pentagon, crossing the Potomac and ending in Washington. This happens on Sunday, however, riders arrive in town before this and hold other memorial events starting Friday night. Hundreds of thousands will come from across the country to take part and honor POWs and MIAs. Every year actor Gary Sinise also hosts the Memorial Day Concert on Sunday evening to honor service members (the concert is usually also televised on PBS).

Traditionally, at 2 p.m. on Monday, the annual Memorial Day parade takes place along Constitution Avenue. This was a tradition begun in 2005, and many people come together to pay respects, honor and remember those who sacrificed so much. (If you want a good place to view, plan to get there early).

Float at July 4 parade in Washington, D.C.

On the outskirts of D.C., other ceremonies and parades are also scheduled. For instance, every year Falls Church (Virginia) holds its Annual Memorial Day Parade and Festival.  

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. 

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 and last year on my blog.

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