WASHINGTON D.C. - To honor and remember the many fallen U.S. service members who died while on active duty, the National Cemetery Administration will host Memorial Day ceremonies in VA national cemeteries across the country with assistance from local communities.
The VA has listed 122 ceremonies set to occur on May 27 across most states, though there are not VA cemeteries in all 50 states. Date, time and location are noted for each ceremony, as well as contact information for each specific VA cemetery. Ceremony dates and times are subject to change, so the VA has urged those wishing to attend to contact their local VA cemetery to confirm details.
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that falls on the final Monday of May each year, first enacted after the American Civil War.
By the time it ended in spring of 1865, the Civil War had claimed more lives than any other conflict in U.S. history, spurring the creation of the country's first national cemeteries.
In the years immediately following the war, Americans across the country began holding informal springtime tribute ceremonies to honor fallen soldiers. Decorating soldiers' graves with flowers and flags and sharing in moments of prayer and reflection became customary acts of tribute.
On May 5, 1868, the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, Gen. John A. Logan, called for a nationwide day of remembrance in the spirit of these smaller tributes to honor fallen U.S. soldiers. He dubbed this day of remembrance “Decoration Day.”
Lincoln Monument, Union Square, Decoration Day, 1876.
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” Logan declared.
Five thousand participants showed up to Arlington National Cemetery and decorated 20,000 graves, both Union and Confederate, on the first Decoration Day.
After World War I, the celebration was expanded to honor all fallen U.S. Service Members, not just those who had served in the Civil War.