General Urges Americans to Pause to Observe Memorial Day
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2006 A general assigned to the military Joint Staff urged the American public to take time this upcoming weekend to recognize Memorial Day and remember the men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
"I'd ask each of us in our own way, maybe public and maybe private, to take a few moments to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for America and for the oppressed around the world," said Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing yesterday.
"From Concord and Yorktown to the streets of Baghdad, in the Philippines, in the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation's armed forces have always been there when they were needed," Ham said. "And today, we're honored by the service and sacrifice of so many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families.
"Let's show them this Memorial Day how proud we are of them and how thankful we are," Ham said. "And let's never forget those who gave their all for our country."
A wide array of events around the country, from solemn ceremonies to parades to picnics, will commemorate Memorial Day.
A universal observance will be the National Moment of Remembrance, at 3 p.m., local time, on Monday, May 29. The event, established by Congress, gives Americans the opportunity to come together for a single minute as an act of national unity to honor those who gave their lives in the country's service.
Another major event will take place at Arlington National Cemetery, where Memorial Day was first observed, on May 30, 1868. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed that first "Decoration Day" observation, as it was called, and flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington.
The name was changed to Memorial Day in 1882, and the day came to honor servicemembers of all wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday, held the last Monday in May.
This year, as Arlington National Cemetery marks its 138th Memorial Day observation, honor guard members from every service will join soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard" tomorrow afternoon in placing a small American flag at all 220,000-plus gravesites. The flags will remain through the weekend, honoring the fallen during the May 29 ceremony in Arlington's Memorial Amphitheater and the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Elsewhere in the nation's capital, wreath-laying ceremonies are planned May 29 at the Navy Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
The National Memorial Day parade, also on May 29, will feature about 600 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members, as well as veterans units from all 50 states. This year, the parade is billed as an "America Supports You" program event. America Supports You is a Defense Department program that spotlights public and corporate support for the men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces.
A free Memorial Day concert on the U.S. Capitol grounds on May 28 will feature actors Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise and Charles Durning and other guest artists, along with the National Symphony Orchestra.
Chicago will host one of the country's biggest Memorial Day parades May 27, along with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Gen. John Logan Memorial. The Windy City's annual parade has grown steadily since its first, in 1871, with more than 10,000 participants in recent years, including bands, floats, military groups and veterans organizations, city officials said.
This year, the parade will recognize the 20th anniversary of Chicago's Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade, held in June 1986, and the 230th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Elsewhere around the country, national cemeteries will host Memorial Day observances, and communities large and small will commemorate the day with a full range of events. Many will include active- and reserve-component troops.
For example, Air Force aircraft will perform flyovers in more than 80 community commemorations, from small town parades like Sharon, Pa., to the annual Memorial Day ceremony in Honolulu.