Memorial Day: A look at the National Cemetery and other national memorials

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Honoring the fallen

Monday, May 30, will mark Memorial Day, which was originally called Decoration Day in 1868.

Becoming a national day

In 1866, Henry Welles of Waterloo, New York, suggested the town’s shops should close May 5 to commemorate the soldiers who had died during the Civil War.

Two years later in Waterloo, Gen. John Logan issued a declaration that Decoration Day should be observed nationwide. The declaration said that May 30 would be designated as a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.

In 1882, the name of the holiday was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to remember soldiers from all American wars.

In 1971, Richard Nixon made Memorial Day a national holiday that was to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Our national cemetery

President Joe Biden will honor the U.S. armed forces in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, May 30. The cemetery has been active since the Civil War.

The public is encouraged to view the ceremonies live at: dvidshub.net/webcast/28869.

You can find a list of events in Orange County here.

The tomb of the unknown soldier

The first tomb of the unknown soldier was dedicated in 1866 and contains the remains of 2,111 soldiers from the Civil War.

The tomb is in what was the rose garden of the Arlington House, which was once Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s home.

Needing more room

In September 2021, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to inaugurate construction of the Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion and the Federal Highways Administration Defense Access Road construction projects.

The combined projects will support the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery by realigning the roads near the site of the Old Navy Annex, and adding roughly 50 acres to the cemetery and 80,000 burial spaces.

Other national memorials

Timeline of memorials in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.1982: Vietnam Veterans Memorial opens

1993: Vietnam Women’s Memorial opens

1995: Korean War Memorial opens

2004: World War II Memorial opens

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The memorial is free and open 24 hours a day.

The memorial includes the names of more than 58,000 servicemen and women who gave their lives in service in the Vietnam War.

The memorial includes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, the Three Servicemen statue and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

The memorial was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982, as part of a five-day ceremony that began Nov. 10, presided over by President Ronald Reagan, and which involved a procession of tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans. About two years later the Three Soldiers statue was dedicated.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The National Park Service and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation are rehabilitating the 25-year-old memorial and started construction on the Wall of Remembrance. The Wall of Remembrance is a new, permanent addition to the memorial and will include the names of 36,574 American servicemen and more than 7,200 members of the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army who gave their lives defending the people of South Korea.

The memorial has a walled triangle with 19 stainless steel statues designed by Frank Gaylord. Each statue is taller than 7 feet tall. The statues face the Pool of Remembrance, a shallow circular pool 30 feet in diameter lined with black granite and surrounded by a grove of linden trees with benches.

The World War II Memorial

It honors the service of 16 million members of the armed forces of the U.S., the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans. It opened May 29, 2004, with a four-day reunion of veterans.

Designed by the former chief of the Rhode Island School of Design, Friedrich St. Florian, the memorial illustrates the clear relationship between the homefront and the battlefront. It has 24 bronze bas-relief panels that flank the ceremonial entrance. Two massive victory pavilions chronicle the efforts Americans undertook to win the war. A wall of 4,048 gold stars reminds all of the supreme sacrifice made by more than 400,000 Americans to make that victory possible.

Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial

A new national monument to be built at the National Mall is expected to break ground this year, with dedication of the completed memorial in 2023. To learn more, go to ndswm.org

Sources: The Memorial Day Foundation, Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Department of Defense, Center for Military Readiness, National Park Service, Arlington National Cemetery Photos from the Department of Defense and National Park Service