Memorial Day Weekend: History, Parade, Events, Activities and Quotes

Cover Photo
Memorial Day is a United States Federal Holiday observed on the Last Monday of May (May 26 for 2014). Formerly known as Decoration Day, the day was formally changed to Memorial Day in memory and honor of those who gave their lives fighting for a common cause, America.

Memorial Day commemorates men and women who died while in military service to the United States. First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in wars.

Memorial Day often marks the start of the Summer Vacation Season and Labor Day its end.

History and Purpose of Memorial Day

Memorial Day begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century. Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not.
  1. By 1865 the practice of decorating soldiers graves had become widespread in the North.
  2. On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic – the organization for Northern Civil War veterans – Logan issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" should be observed nationwide.
  3. There were events in 183 cemeteries in 27 states in 1868, and 336 in 1869.
  4. The northern states quickly adopted the holiday; Michigan made "Decoration Day" an official state holiday in 1871 and by 1890 every northern state followed suit.
  5. The Memorial Day speech became an occasion for veterans, politicians and ministers to commemorate the war – and at first to recall the atrocities of the enemy.
  6. They mixed religion and celebratory nationalism and provided a means for the people to make sense of their history in terms of sacrifice for a better nation, one closer to their God.
  7. Ironton, Ohio lays claim to the nation's oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade, since 1868.
  8. In 1882, the name of Decoration Day was formally changed to 'Memorial Day' in memory and honor of those who gave their lives fighting for a common cause, America.
It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 (since 1911) and the Coca-Cola 600 (since 1960) auto races.

2014 Memorial Day Weekend: History, Parade, Events, Activities and Quotes

National Memorial Day Parades Listings

If you are looking for a national Memorial Day parade, please take a look at this listing of Memorial Day Parades here under:
  • Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC (Monday, May 26, 2014 2PM)
    The parade of Marching Bands and Veterans units from all 50 states steps off at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 7th Streets, NW and proceeds along Constitution Avenue, past the White House, ending at 17th Street. The National Memorial Day Parade is sponsored by the World War II Veterans Committee and includes patriotic floats and helium-filled balloons.

  • Memorial Day Parade in Falls Church, Virginia (Monday, May 26, 2014 9AM-5PM)
    The City of Falls Church, Virginia celebrates Memorial Day with a festival featuring pony rides, arts and crafts booths, live entertainment, food and a community parade.

  • Memorial Day Parade in Milwaukee (Monday, May 26, 2014 2PM)
    Begins at Fourth Street and Wisconsin Avenue and travels east to the War Memorial.
    Immediately following parade their will be a wreath laying ceremony and a brick laying ceremony at the War Memorial Center reflecting pool. The Metropolitan Community Concert Band will play at 5 p.m. in the Memorial Hall.
  • Memorial Day Parade in Bay View (Monday, May 26, 2014 9AM)
    Begins near Burdick School at East Bolivar Avenue and South Taylor, and travels to Woodlawn Cemetery at 614 E. Howard Ave., for an invocation, presentation of the memorial wreath and the singing of the National Anthem.
  • Memorial Day Parade in Greendale (Monday, May 26, 2014 9AM)
    Begins at Broad Street and ends at Greendale High School.
  • Memorial Day Parade in Menomonee Falls (Monday, May 26, 2014 10AM)
    Begins at Main Street and Harrison Avenue, continues west on Main Street to Grand Avenue, then turns north on Grand Avenue and terminates at the bridge over the Menomonee River just east of Woodlawn
  • Memorial Day Parade in Mequon-Thiensville (Monday, May 26, 2014 10AM)
    Begins at Grace Lutheran Church, Thiensville, and heads south on Green Bay Road to the Mequon City Hall, where ceremonies will take place.
  • Memorial Day Parade in South Milwaukee (Monday, May 26, 2014 10AM)
    Begins at Old St. Mary Church on 13th and Manitoba, and continues to Veterans Memorial Park on 10th Avenue.
  • Memorial Day Parade in South Waukesha (Monday, May 26, 2014 10:15AM)
    Begins at Frame Park and continues west and south on Baxter Street, south on Buckley Street, west on West Main Street and south on Maple Avenue to West Park Avenue.
  • Memorial Day Parade in South West Allis (Monday, May 26, 2014 10AM)
    Begins at 70th Street, proceeds west on Greenfield Avenue to 75th Street, and then south on 75th Street to National Avenue. The parade will turn onto National Avenue and finish at Veterans Memorial Park. A memorial service will follow the parade at 11 a.m.

Other Events and Activities on American National Memorial Day

2014 Memorial Day Weekend: History, Parade, Events, Activities and Quotes
  • Arizona Air National Guard's 1652nd F16 Fighter Wing Flybys The Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport is scheduled to conduct F-16 flybys Monday, May 30, over Memorial Day ceremonies in Tucson and Green Valley. The flybys, which will consist of a two-aircraft formation, are scheduled to take place between 9 and 10 a.m.
  • Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally
    Sunday, May 25, 2014. Departure from the Pentagon at 12 p.m. Speaker Program and Musical Tribute 1:30 p.m. at the Reflecting Pool across from The Lincoln Memorial. Thousands of motorcycles ride through Washington in an annual demonstration seeking to improve veteran benefits and resolve POW/MIA issues.
  • Stars & Stripes & Spokes
    May 23-26, 2014. RFK Stadium. New this year! A four-day festival will honor America’s Armed Forces and bring together thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts with live music, military vehicle and equipment displays, food and more. Admission is free.
  • GI Film Festival
    May 9-15, 2014. The festival is held annually just before Memorial Day weekend. See classic and premier films celebrating the heroic stories of the American Armed Forces including a variety of films presented by award-winning Hollywood actors and directors. Participate in panel discussions with soldiers, journalists, authors, and filmmakers.
  • Arlington National Cemetery
    Flags-In. Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) will be joined by service members from the U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company, U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard in placing more than 250,000 grave decorating flags at Arlington National Cemetery. The flags will remain through Memorial Day. Monday, May 26, 2014, 11 a.m. A wreath-laying ceremony and concert will be held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honor of Memorial Day. See Photos of Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Navy Memorial
    Saturday, May 24, 2014, 11 a.m. Rolling Thunder visits the Navy Memorial and holds a wreath-laying ceremony featuring special guests and live performances. Monday, May 26, 2014, 10 a.m. Fleet Reserve Association Wreath laying, 12 p.m. U.S. Navy Band Concert, 1 p.m. Naval District Washington Wreath laying.
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monday, May 26, 2014, 1 p.m. This year's annual Memorial Day ceremony includes Presentation of the Colors, remarks by a special guest and wreath-laying service.
  • World War II Memorial
    Monday, May 26, 2014, 9 a.m. The National Park Service and the Friends of the National World War II Memorial will sponsor a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of our veterans. Guest speakers will give remarks. The theme for the commemoration is "Honoring our Fallen Warriors." Many surviving WWII veterans will be in attendance.
  • Air Force Memorial
    Monday, May 26, 2014, 9 a.m. wreath laying ceremony is open to the public.
  • Hometown Holidays
    May 24-26, 2014. The city of Rockville's Memorial Day event is a three-day street festival with live music, children's entertainment, a parade and more.
  • Viva Vienna
    May 24-26, 2014. Vienna, Virginia celebrates with a community festival including food, crafts, music, carnival rides and a Memorial Day tribute.
  • Wolf Trap Farm Park
    Sunday, May 25, 2014, 8:00 p.m. Summer Blast Off! "The President's Own". The park for performing arts kicks off the summer season with a free performance by the U.S. Marine Band followed by fireworks. The Filene Center gates open at 6:30 p.m. Arrive early because the park closes once capacity is reached.
  • Sunset Celebration at Mount Vernon
    May 23-25, 2014, 6-9 p.m. New family-friendly event! Enjoy evening tours of the Mansion, 18th-century music, dancing, games, and wagon rides. Stroll the lantern-lit grounds and visit with Lady Washington and her granddaughter Nelly. Admission: Adults, $18; children 6-11, $12; and children under 5 are admitted free.
  • Fort Ward Park, Alexandria, Virginia
    Monday, May 26, 2014, 1-7 p.m. The annual Memorial Day Jazz Festival features big band, swing, and contemporary jazz music. Picnics are allowed and food and beverages will also be for sale. In case of inclement weather, the festival will be relocated to the Lee Center's Kauffman Auditorium, 1108 Jefferson St. Admission is free.
  • Falls Church Memorial Day Parade
    Monday May 26, 2014, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The City of Falls Church, Virginia celebrates Memorial Day with a festival featuring pony rides, arts and crafts booths, live entertainment, food and a community parade.
  • Delaplane Strawberry Festival
    May 24-25, 2014, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sky Meadows State Park, Delaplane, VA. The annual festival includes live entertainment, children's games, pony rides, hayrides, a petting zoo, a 5K fun run, a raptor exhibit, antique cars, food, crafts and strawberries.
  • Chestertown Tea Party Festival
    May 24-26, 2014. The historic river-front town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay (about an hour and half from DC) kicks off each summer with a weekend of fun for the whole family including a tea toss reenactment, colonial parade, cocktail party, raft race, street performances, colonial crafts, strolling musicians, local fare, 5k & 10 mile run and more.

National Memorial Day Famous Quotes

Here is a roundup of some of the best most famous and favourite Memorial Day Quotes and sayings to share with loved ones and honor those who have gone before us.
They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.
Henry Ward Beecher
Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.
Wallace Bruce
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
Joseph Campbell
The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree.
Thomas Campbell
The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.
Benjamin Disraeli
Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for, Is their monument to-day, and for aye.
Thomas Dunn English
For love of country they accepted death...
James A. Garfield
The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children.
William Havard
The dead soldier's silence sings our national anthem.
Aaron Kilbourn
For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.
William Penn
On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation!
Thomas William Parsons
The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.
Minot J. Savage
We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.
Francis A. Walker
And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
Lee Greenwood
Feel free to share your favorite or provide your own quotes and tributes in the comments box below.
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