Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.
Some of the Memorial Day events in San Diego area:
Ceremonies at VA
• Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, P.O. Box 6237 Point Loma San Diego, CA 92106, (619) 553-2084. Ceremony: May 26 at 10:00 a.m.
• Miramar National Cemetery, 5795 Nobel Drive San Diego, CA 92122, (619) 553-2084. Ceremony: May 25 at 1:00 p.m.
• Riverside National Cemetery, 22495 Van Buren Boulevard Riverside, CA 92518, (909) 653-8417. Ceremony: May 26, 11:00 a.m.
Project Poker Run
Monday, May 26. A 125-mile, five-stop poker run for motorcyclists followed by a family-friendly BBQ with all kinds of food, live music and raffle prizes including gift cards redeemable at multiple dealerships and shops throughout the SoCal area to Harley-Davidson rentals, to riding gear, to a custom bobber. The registration fee is $25, of which $20 will be donated to Wounded Warrior Project. The other $5 goes to the “the pot.” At the end of the ride, the rider with the best poker hand will win. For more info or to sign up, click here.
Fourth Annual Warrior’s Code Poker Ride
May, 24. The ride will begin and end at Biggs Harley-Davidson located at 1040 Los Vallecitos #113, San Marcos, CA. Registration to start at 8:30am, with coffee and pastries to welcome the crowd. Kickstands up promptly at 9:30am! Participants will be greeted at the finish line with a backyard BBQ complete with live music by Lacy Younger Band and Resounding Joy, local vendors, games and prizes. Online registration is still open, but day-of registration is also welcome. For more ride information and event details visit www.WoundedWarriorHomes.org
• May 24-May 26. The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, 2115 Park Blvd., San Diego 92101, invites you to join Chapter 472 of the Vietnam Veterans of America to honor and remember the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of a most grateful Nation on Memorial Day Weekend at the San Diego Vietnam Peace Memorial at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.
• May 24-26, 7:30 a.m. “Reading of the Names” May 24, 7:30 a.m. Candlelight Vigil 7 PM May 26, 7:30 a.m. Memorial Day Program.
Saturday, May 24, 9 to 10 a.m., USS Midway Museum, 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego 92101. World War II veterans will be honored at a family-oriented remembrance ceremony on the flight deck of the USS Midway.
Entertainment by the Pomerado Community Band. Perfect to show the kids what service to community and country means. Ceremony attendees will receive free same-day admission to the museum.
Military, Fire & Law
Monday, May 26, Vista. If you are an active or retired military, fire, or law enforcement officer come enjoy the Wave for FREE on May 26th! We want to thank you and your family for all you do. Valid active duty or retired ID must be shown at the ticket booth to receive one free admission for each ID and up to 6 additional tickets may be purchased for $9.95ea with each valid ID. (Dependent IDs valid for discount admission only, not free admission offer.)
Post-9/11 Heroes, and an evening Candlelight Vigil
Monday, May 26, 9-12 a.m., 12650 Lindo Lane, Lakeside. Please join the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America to commemorate Memorial Day. 68th Annual Memorial Day Service, Reading of the California Names: Post 9/11 Heroes, BBQ and Candlelight Vigil. (Sign up to read at http://www.buildthecenter.vvmf.org/ca-rotn)
About Memorial Day
Early observances of
The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
On May 5, 1862, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “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,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Many Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.
Evolution of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Memorial Day traditions
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.