While most of you may be celebrating Memorial Day weekend with camping trips and family barbecues, do you know the reason behind this historic, rather somber holiday?
Actually commemorated to remember those who died serving the United States in the Civil War between 1861 and 1865, Memorial Day was first officially celebrated first in Waterloo, NY in 1866. The day wasn’t formally recognized until 1971, however, when Congress established the last Monday in May as a federal holiday.
Here in Anchorage, our family marks Memorial Day by attending the Fort Richardson National Cemetery service on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. It is a ceremony full of the dignity our fallen service men and women deserve, with music, a guest speaker (this year Brig. Gen. Laurie Hummel, adjutant general for the Alaska National Guard), and a playing of “echo Taps” at the end of the service by the famous Bugels Across America volunteers. Settled in the shadow of the Chugach mountains, this is the event we choose to attend.
If you take your parents tomorrow, be sure they know to arrive at the Main Gate of Fort Richardson (unless they already have military access) no later than 11 a.m. Grownups must provide proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license for entry. Base personnel will provide directions and signs to the cemetery.
The patriotic music begins at 11:30 a.m., with the official ceremony at 12 p.m.
If you don’t want to stand for an hour, bring a lawn chair or blanket, and remember that no food is allowed on the cemetery grounds.
Take a few minutes to walk around, too. Flags decorate all gravesites, and the entire walkway to the cemetery itself. It’s a very proud moment for Alaska.
Listen to the former members of our United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard as they speak of their past service, and more important, of those who didn’t make it home.
Your history lesson is out on the grassy lawn of Alaska’s largest military installation.
Parents: Questions about the Memorial Day service at Fort Richardson National Cemetery: Call 907-384-7075, or visit www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/ftrichardson.asp.