6 Things Every American Should Know About Memorial Day

From soldiers deployed overseas to families in the backyard, people across the nation take a moment on the final Monday each May to honor our fallen veterans. These six captivating pictures show the great variety — yet singular dedication — to this solemn occasion.

1. “Flags In” at Arlington

Father and son place flags for Arlington National Cemetery's "Flags In" Memorial Day Observance

U.S. Army/Adam Skoczylas — Master Sgt. Steven Colbert places a flag on a grave site with his son’s assistance. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) began their rounds to place a small American flag into the ground in front of every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for the upcoming Memorial Day observance.

It has become a Memorial Day tradition on the part of the 3rd Infantry Division, (The Old Guard) to place flags on every grave at Arlington National Cemetery. They are placed with military precision, one boot length from each stone. It is a powerful way to remember each Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine who died while serving this country, and who now rests beneath those stones in those hallowed grounds. It will take days for the Old Guard to complete this task, but when they are finished and the sun rises on Memorial Day again this year, the grounds of that sacred place will be ablaze with color. Though it is a place of somber remembrance, it will boast a celebratory air that day. The same will be true in cemeteries where veterans are buried all across the country. It is good for us to remember those who have served and to celebrate what they gave in service to us all.

2. Flags and Flower Leis

Cub Scout places a lei and flag on Memorial Day

U.S. Air Force/A1C Galbreath — A Cub Scout from troop 195 of Oahu, Hawaii places a small lei and an American Flag onto a grave marker at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, during a Memorial Day Ceremony, 2002.

It is particularly good to teach the young the meaning of this day. Our young people need to be taught the meaning of this day, and why we celebrate it with so much pomp and circumstance. They need to be taught why this nation is worth that cost as well. And they need to know that when the freedoms this nation represents are threatened, some will be asked to answer the call to serve. They need to be taught that of those who have done so, all gave something of themselves to the service of the nation, but some, like those who we honor on Memorial Day, gave everything. They gave “the last full measure of their devotion” in order to preserve those freedoms.

3. Honoring the Sacrifice

Flags and flower leis adorn each grave in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

U.S. Navy/OS2 John Bouvia — Flags and flower leis adorn each grave in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in observance of Memorial Day, 1991.

Each generation of veterans hopes that by their sacrifices will have secured the nation for the generations to come.

Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.
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