A reminder: It's a somber holiday

Memorial Day events salute those who died for America


Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer -- time to head for the ocean or take a dip in the pool.

But the real reason for the holiday has nothing to do with beaches or bikinis. The holiday, created to pay tribute to soldiers killed in the Civil War, is meant to honor those who have died in the service of the country.

The history of the holiday will be told in a program at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, 2400 E. Fort Ave., on Monday.

"A lot of visitors always associated it with cookouts and the start of summer but didn't know the origins of Memorial Day," said Fort McHenry chief park ranger Vince Vaise, explaining the decision to introduce the program.

Two years ago, the rangers began talking about origins of the holiday and found that the visitors were intrigued. This year, they decided to expand the program and include a wreath laying on the graves of Civil War and War of 1812 soldiers at Old Saint Paul's Cemetery.

The event at the fort begins at 9 a.m., and at 9:30 a.m. there will be the raising of a Civil War-era flag at half staff. There will be readings of poetry, including Bivouac of the Dead and In Flanders Fields, and a discussion on the traditions of the holiday. There will also be living history presentations, videos and displays.

At noon, the Star-Spangled Banner will be raised to full staff. At 3 p.m., there will be the National Moment of Remembrance at the flagpole, followed by a playing of taps on a Civil War bugle.

"It sounds a little different, but if anything it's more poignant," Vaise said of the instrument.

A ranger in 19th-century costume will deliver a Memorial Day speech that was given at the fort in the late 1800s.

Vaise said Memorial Day observances waned after Civil War soldiers died and the nation began observing Veterans Day in November.

But he believes there has been renewed interest in the holiday in recent years, perhaps because the nation is at war. "I really believe there is slow but steady revival of Memorial Day," he said.

For more information about the Memorial Day observance at the fort, call 410-962-4290.


Memorial Day Events

Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens

200 E. Padonia Road, Timonium 11 a.m. Monday

The 229th Maryland Army National Guard Band and Maryland Sings will perform music, retired Sun reporter and Vietnam War veteran Joe Nawrozki will deliver the keynote address, and dignitaries and politicians, including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, will participate in the commemoration.

For more information, call 410-666-0490 or visit dulaneyvalley.com.

Old Saint Paul's Cemetery

700 block W. Lombard St. 1:30 p.m. Monday

A laying of wreaths at the graves of Civil War Gen. Lewis Armistead and Maj. George Armistead, hero of the War of 1812.

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Taney

Piers 3 and 5 Baltimore Inner Harbor 1 p.m. Monday 410-396-3453

U.S. Navy Memorial

701 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Washington, D.C. 8 p.m. Monday

U.S. Navy Band performs. Call 202-433-2525 or visit www.navyband.navy.mil.

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