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Memorial Day

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Memorial Day
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Flickr user Tony the Misfit
On Memorial Day, the United States commemorates the many men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines who have died in service to the country. Typical activities on Memorial Day include wreath laying at military battlefields and cemeteries, particularly Arlington National Cemetery, and somber parades. Washington, DC, the home of many memorials to the nation's war dead, is the center of Memorial Day services, though cities and towns throughout the country honor their fallen military personnel with local ceremonies. Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans Day, which falls on November 11 of each year and honors war veterans, not just war dead.

When is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day occurs annually on the last Monday in the month of May. It is a federally observed holiday, which means that all banks, government offices, schools, and businesses close in observance of the holiday.

Upcoming Dates for Memorial Day

  • May 27, 2013
  • May 26, 2014
  • May 25, 2015
  • May 30, 2016

Memorial Day in Washington, DC
Washington, DC, and its immediate environs, including Arlington National Cemetery, is filled with memorials to the nation's war dead. All of the following memorials are bedecked with wreaths on Memorial Day and/or celebrated in an official ceremony. Check their websites for ceremony times:

The most hallowed place for the observance of Memorial Day in the DC area is Arlington National Cemetery, which lies across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia. Arlington was the site of the very first Memorial Day commemoration, called Decoration Day, on May 30, 1868. Decoration Day was established to honor the thousands of soldiers who died during the American Civil War. (Learn more about the history of Memorial Day.) As part of Memorial Day services at Arlington National Cemetery are a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a service in the 5,000-seat Memorial Amphitheater. The U.S. President and other military and civil dignitaries attend these ceremonies.

Another popular gathering on Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, DC, is Rolling Thunder, a group dedicated to POW-MIA (Prisoner of War-Missing in Action) issues, particularly those related to the Vietnam War. Memorial Day Weekend brings thousands of Rolling Thunder participants, usually astride loud motorcycles, to the Nation's Capital for commemoration ceremonies, music, and advocacy forums.

Other Important Memorials and Memorial Day Festivities Around the Nation
Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the country with services and parades. Follow these links for more information.

Memorial Day Weekend
Memorial Day Weekend is also considered the unofficial beginning of summer, which means that the nation's highways and airports are busy with early summer travelers. Be prepared for airline and hotel fare hikes beginning on Memorial Day.

Additional Memorial Day Resources

  • The Memorial Day Foundation - A nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness and respect for Memorial Day.
  • American Battle Monuments Commission - Established in 1923, this government agency overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials, in particular American cemeteries in foreign countries.
  • Civil War Trust - Headquartered in Hagerstown, MD, and Washington, DC, this nonprofit is dedicated to preserving Civil War battlefields throughout the United States.

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