Memorial Day is celebrated by many families as the start of summer; however, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a day to honor fallen Union soldiers of the American Civil War.
According to History.com, General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery on the first Decoration Day, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery with flowers and flags.
The holiday was renamed Memorial Day following World War I and evolved into a day to honor the fallen from all wars. Once observed on May 30, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May since 1971.
Make plans now to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day with your family by attending these patriotic events in Central Virginia.
In Central Virginia, veterans of all eras are honored at noon every Friday at Monument Terrace in Lynchburg. The Support the Troops Rally has met every Friday, regardless of weather, since November 30, 2001.
Veterans from every branch of the military gather each week at Monument Terrace with patriots of all ages to show their support for members of the military serving around the world.
Four of the local veterans who are present each week at the Support the Troops Rally presented a red, white and blue wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday, May 11.
Bud Perry, Otto Davis, David Stokes and Steve Bozeman laid the wreath on behalf of Central Virginia's veterans on Sunday as a bugler sounded "Taps." Dog tags and other mementos were added to the wreath during weekly rallies at Monument Terrace.
On Monday, May 26, a special Memorial Day ceremony will be held at Monument Terrace, beginning at 11 a.m. Patriotic music will be played and veterans of all ages will be honored.
The Memorial Day 10K Run & 2 Mile Walk begins at 8 a.m. on Memorial Day near Riverfront Park in downtown Lynchburg. Register in advance at Riverside Runners.
Lynchburg's Old City Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 2,200 Confederate soldiers. Old City Cemetery will hold its annual Confederate Memorial Day service at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 25. The annual tradition was first celebrated in 1866.
Armed Forces Day is celebrated each year on the third Saturday in May. Armed Forces Day honors all men and women who currently serve in the United States armed forces, as well as veterans.
Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May, the day after Armed Forces Day.
The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. is gearing up for the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6. On June 6th, 1944 195,000 Allied sailors, 160,000 Allied troops, 12,000 aircraft, and 7,000 naval vessels began the largest amphibious invasion in history. This invasion marked the beginning of the Normandy campaign and was the turning point in the war.
The National D-Day Memorial will open at 8 a.m. on D-Day with a wreath laying ceremony planned at 11 a.m. Over 10,000 people will be in attendance on D-Day, including D-Day veterans from around the world and dignitaries from the United States, France, England.
Additional activities during the day at the memorial include veterans oral history stations, a USO show featuring the 29th Division Band, a "Salute to Sinatra" at 1:30 p.m., a reunion tent, displays by living historians and an outdoor movie night at 7 p.m.
The D-Day observance continues through the weekend with a D-Day parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 7 in downtown Bedford, a performance by the Tommy Dorcey Orchestra at 7 p.m. on Saturday and a Field Chapel Service at 11 a.m. on Sunday at the National D-Day Memorial.
The National D-Day Memorial also has several events planned during May. On Saturday, May 17, the memorial will host the Armed Forces Day We Honor Veterans 5K. The event begins at 8 a.m. and funds raised will go toward veteran patient care and continuing education programs to honor veterans at the memorial.
On Saturday, May 24, the "Stars and Stripes Forever" Patriotic Concert will be held at 7 p.m. at the National D-Day Memorial. The Jefferson Choral Society, Jefferson Youth Chorale and Cantate, the Chorus of the Blue Ridge and the Let's Dance Band will perform at the show. The memorial will remain open until 10 p.m. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.
The National D-Day Memorial will hold its annual "Remembering Their Sacrifice" Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 26. Admission is free until noon.
The month of May offers many opportunity to say "thank you" to our nation's veterans and to honor the fallen heroes. Teach your children the real meaning of Memorial Day by planning to attend one or more of these events in Central Virginia.