Memorial Day: A Day to Honor and Remember

Memorial Day: A Day to Honor and Remember

Memorial Day is a holiday to honor service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. The holiday started out in communities around the country, and eventually grew into a nationally observed day of reflection.

In the spring of 1865, the Civil War came to an end. The conflict claimed more American lives than any previous war, and our country was in a state of uncertainty about how to heal and come together again. Many towns and cities around the nation began holding springtime tributes to fallen soldiers from their communities, decorating graves with flowers and joining together in remembrance and prayer. By the late 1860s, most states recognized an official holiday in remembrance of the sacrifices made during the Civil War. Eventually it became common practice to observe what was known as Decoration Day on May 30.

Eventually the name shifted from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, and the date was changed in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It is now observed nationwide  on the last Monday in May. Events are held around the Black Hills every year, including parades, ceremonies, and decorating graves of fallen service members.

If your family wants to get out and about this Memorial Day, head down to Hot Springs. Known as “The Veteran’s Town,” Hot Springs’ connection to the military and our veterans runs deep. Their annual Stars, Stripes, and Steps event has three routes around town of varying difficulty, with family friendly entertainment afterwards.

Memorial Day weekend is also when nightly lighting ceremonies at Mount Rushmore start for the summer. The ceremony starts with a film about the four presidents on the mountain, then leads the crowd in singing of the national anthem and finishes by recognizing veterans in the audience and inviting them to help lower and fold our nation’s flag. From May 28 through August 14, the ceremony starts at 9 p.m., and moves to 8 p.m. from August 15 until September 30. The event is free to attend.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many in-person celebrations have been put on hold this year. There are celebrations occurring online this year your family may enjoy:

The Public Broadcasting Service is hosting their annual National Memorial Day Concert on May 30 at 6 p.m. local. Performers and speakers this year include Alan Jackson, Gary Sinise, Steve Buscemi, and Gladys Knight, in addition to bands and choirs from all of the military services. You can watch it streaming live on their website here:

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is hosting an in-person event at the memorial in Washington D.C., but will also be streaming online May 31 at 11 a.m. local. Guest speakers include two Vietnam War veterans, Karl Marlantes and Nancy Wilson. The ceremony will also welcome home five service members recently added to the memorial, and five members who have been repatriated in the past two years. You can watch from home on their website: