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Memorial Day


By Captain Zack Brackney
SVA High School Social Studies Teacher

Memorial Day was initially known as “Decoration Day” for the practice of leaving flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers who had, in Abraham Lincoln’s words: “given the last full measure of devotion.” While the practice was initially focused on Civil War dead, as time has moved on and other wars have been fought, all US Service Members who have sacrificed their lives for our nation are so honored. It became an official federal holiday in 1971, making it the three-day weekend we now celebrate. 

For many Americans, the Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity to have a barbecue and celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer. For others, it serves as a somber reminder of what our way of life truly costs. In either case, it is important to note that while most living veterans and active duty service members welcome words and acts of appreciation for their service, this day is specifically to commemorate those who are not with us anymore. Many communities hold Memorial Day parades or various remembrance ceremonies at local graveyards, cemeteries, and monuments. In the Denver area, we have the Ft. Logan National Cemetery, which will be open on Memorial Day and hosting an event at 11 am. You can check online for other ceremony locations and times.  

As a side note, if you visit a military cemetery, you may note that some markers have coins on them. These coins are part of a tradition that goes back to the Roman Empire, and each coin has a specific meaning:

Penny: Someone visited the grave

Nickel: The visitor and the deceased went to boot camp together

Dime: The visitor and the deceased served together at some point

Quarter: The visitor was present with the deceased when they passed

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