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Honors Military Sacrifice on Memorial Day
WASHINGTON (May 28, 2010) - From parades to
somber ceremonies and a moment of silence,
Americans will recall the sacrifices of
military personnel who paid the ultimate
price for freedom on Memorial Day, Monday,
"Those fallen heroes we honor this Memorial
Day answered their call to duty, and in so
doing, they honored us," said Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We owe
them our deep and profound gratitude.
We must pass that sense of obligation to the
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will
continue its annual tradition of hosting
services at most of its national cemeteries
and many other facilities nationwide. The
programs, which are the focus of Memorial
Day events in many communities, honor the
service of deceased Veterans and military
members who die on active duty.
President Obama will speak at VA's Abraham
Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill.,
near Chicago, on Monday. Vice President
Biden will lead the observance at Arlington
National Cemetery, with VA Deputy Secretary
W. Scott Gould in attendance.
For the dates and times of Memorial Day weekend programs at
VA national cemeteries, visit
More than 100,000 people are expected to
attend activities at VA's national
cemeteries, with color guards, readings,
bands and choir performances. Events will
honor about one million men and women who
died in the military during wartime,
including about 655,000 battle deaths.
Some national cemetery observances are
At VA's Great Lakes National Cemetery, near
Dearborn, Mich., Memorial Day will begin
when a horse-drawn caisson brings a
flag-draped coffin holding the cremated
remains of 17 Veterans long unclaimed by
families or friends for burial with full
Those Michigan Veterans fought in wars from
World War II to Vietnam.
Thanks to the Dearborn Allied War Veterans'
Council, whose members worked for months to
match identities with military records, the
17 Veterans' remains are moving from shelves
in local funeral homes to their final rest
in honored grounds.
On May 30, at Riverside, Calif., National
Cemetery --VA's busiest -- volunteers will
read aloud the names of more than 5,500
people who were buried there since last
year's Memorial Day.
VA maintains approximately three million
gravesites at its 131 national cemeteries
and has the potential to provide six million
graves on more than 19,000 acres. In 2009,
VA conducted more than 106,000 burials in
its national cemeteries. The number of
annual interments is expected to increase
for the next three years. This year's
budget for VA national cemetery operation
and construction is $417 million.
Information about Memorial Day, including its history, can
be found at
VA is a cosponsor with the White House
Commission on Remembrance of an annual
Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m., local time,
nationwide on Memorial Day, a time to pause
and reflect on the sacrifice of America's
fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite
Americans. Many institutions will announce
a pause in their activities -- from sporting
events to public facilities -- to call the
nation together in a bond of silence.
Memorial Day was originally called
Decoration Day when the tradition of
decorating Civil War graves began in 1866.
It still brings loved ones to the graves of
the deceased, often with flowers as grave
To honor Veterans buried in national
cemeteries, VA staff and volunteers,
typically place American flags -- either
individual small ones on each grave, usually
placed by volunteers, or "avenues of flags"
flanking both sides of the cemetery main
entrance road. Often these flags are the
burial flags donated by next of kin of
Veterans buried in the cemetery.