Small Wars Journal

US Remembers Its War Dead

US Remembers Its War Dead

Voice of America

Americans are observing Memorial Day weekend, a time meant to honor the nation's war dead, with ceremonies, parades, sporting events and picnics.

The last Monday in May of each year is designated as Memorial Day, a time to place flowers on military gravesites and honor the U.S. servicemen and women who gave their lives in service of the country.

At Arlington National Cemetery near Washington and many other national cemeteries, volunteers place a small American flag on every military grave. Thousands of motorcycle riders from a nationwide group called "Rolling Thunder" stage a ceremonial ride into the nation's capital, to call attention to veterans' issues and to remember service members who went missing in action.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and military Joints Chiefs' chairman Admiral Mike Mullen are scheduled to speak to the group.

Public television and radio will broadcast a Sunday evening concert from the National Mall featuring retired Army General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell as well as other prominent public figures.

Ceremonies also will be held at several of the war memorials in the nation's capital and around the country.

Because many people have the day off from work on Memorial Day, the long weekend is seen as the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, celebrated with picnics and weekend trips to the beach, a park or a campground. Some Americans say they are concerned that the day has become more of a recreational holiday than a time to reflect and honor the dead.


Carlos Moya (not verified)

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 1:23pm

I think that both entries above mention very valid points. I also feel that many people forget about the purpose of the holiday and quite frankly, I think some people just don't care. On the positive side, I have noticed a positive and rising trend of more people teaching their children about the true meaning of the holiday as well as military appreciation. As a vet of multiple tours, it saddens me to think of the unjust redeployments our Vietnam Vets endured. Let's continue to educate our youth and not repeat those same mistakes.

MAJ Carlos Moya
Student, Command and General Staff School
U.S. Army Combined Arms Center
Fort Belvoir, Virginia

"The views in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government."

Hans Bakken (not verified)

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 4:59pm

As an Army Physician (Neurosurgeon) I have long had mixed emotions about the way Memorial Day is recognized, with many people seemingly unaware that it is a day to remember our war dead. I have treated large numbers of seriously and fatally wounded service members, and the memories of my time in Iraq are still strong, even after years have elapsed. Part of me feels that Memorial Day should be a somber occasion spend visiting military cemeteries. There is, however, room for celebration, as long as it is done in the name of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and with the memory of their lives clearly in mind. I do realize that for many, this is simply one more long weekend, but I also sense that if gently reminded, most will remember the intended meaning of this national day.