May 28th, 2012

Memorial Day Remembrances Held Across the Nation

Today, Memorial Day, Americans will honor the sacrifices of military men and women who paid the ultimate price in their service to our nation. More than one million American men and women have died in military service during wartime, including more than 655,000 battle deaths. Observances this Monday, May 30th, will range from parades to memorial ceremonies and organized moments of silence. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend organized activities at national cemeteries.

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“The fallen warriors we honor on Memorial Day cherished liberty and freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We owe them eternal gratitude and we must pass those sentiments on to future generations.” Sec. Shinseki will deliver the keynote address at a Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Richardson (AK) National Cemetery.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will continue a tradition of hosting numerous ceremonies at its national cemeteries and other facilities nationwide. President Obama will speak at Arlington National Cemetery. For the schedule of other Memorial Day weekend programs at VA national cemeteries, visit

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day when the tradition of decorating Civil War graves began in 1866. This day of remembrance still brings loved ones to the graves of the deceased, often with flowers as grave decorations. To honor veterans buried in national cemeteries, Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) staff and volunteers typically place small individual American flags on each grave. Alternatively, “avenues of flags”, flanking both sides of the cemetery entrance, are displayed. (These may include burial flags awarded to the survivors of veterans interned in the cemetery). The VA maintains more than three million gravesites at its 131 national cemeteries. In 2010, more than 111,800 burials took place in national cemeteries.