Honor America’s Heroes on Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was established soon after the Civil War to honor the country’s military dead. General Order No. 11, which established Decoration Day, was issued by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and read: “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” On the first Decoration Day, 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

This tradition will continue on Monday, May 29, when we will again reflect on the courage and sacrifice of military members who gave their lives defending the freedoms we all enjoy. You and your family can honor our heroes by participating in the many Memorial Day events taking place across the nation.

National events in Washington, D.C.

All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.

  • The National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday, May 28, salutes the sacrifice of service members, veterans and their families. The free concert will start at 8 p.m., on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and will feature patriotic musical performances, documentary footage and dramatic readings.  
  • The National Memorial Day Parade is the largest of its kind in the U.S. Proceeding down Constitution Avenue, the parade includes patriotic floats, high school marching bands, veterans, service members, service organizations and local and national celebrities. This year's parade will start at 2 p.m. 
  • Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery. Each year, ceremonial honor guards from each of the services place more than 250,000 flags on the graves, and the Memorial Day Roses Foundation provides free roses to visitors. 

Join public tributes at the many war memorials in Washington, D.C.  

Celebrate in your hometown  

  • Display the flag — The Stars and Stripes are traditionally flown at half-staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day. Some people also choose to fly the POW/MIA flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action. See guidelines for displaying the U.S. flag. 
  • Visit a cemetery — Honor the fallen at a family member's or other veteran's gravesite by decorating their graves with flowers. Find national or state veterans cemeteries through the National Cemetery Administration.  
  • Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance — Pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. (local time) for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.  
  • Attend local Memorial Day parades — Many cities and towns have Memorial Day parades to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country.  
  • Wear Memorial Day poppies — Red poppies are traditionally worn on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. 

On May 29, join our fellow citizens in honoring America’s heroes. Contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for information on local events.


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