Washington, DC - Memorial Day, America's unofficial first day of summer, is the day we traditionally spruce up the final resting places of family members, friends and especially those who gave the last full measure in service to community and country. National parks are appropriate places for reflection and remembrance on this special day and many of the 28 different kinds of parks in the national park system will host special events this Memorial Day weekend.
"America's national parks represent something unique to the hundreds of millions of people who visit each year," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "Whether it's wandering through the stunning scenery of Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks or joining thousands in remembrance along the National Mall in our nation's capital, national parks preserve America's historical, cultural and natural landscapes. This Memorial Day, and every other day of the year, I encourage people to get out and find your park."
On Saturday, May 28, the National Park Service (NPS) will host the 21st annual luminaria at Fredericksburg National Cemetery in Virginia. The program will begin at 8 p.m. and run until 11 p.m. In the event of rain, the date will be moved to Sunday, May 29th. This program is free to the public. A separate commemorative ceremony will be held on Memorial Day, May 30.
On Memorial Day at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, the park and local community will honor a World War I veteran, James Alexander Cary, who joined the National Park Service in 1923 and was murdered by bootleggers on March 12, 1927, while patrolling on West Mountain. The Cary memorial at the Garland County Veterans Memorial and Military Park consists of a bronze plaque and the iconic park ranger campaign hat mounted on a large boulder.
National parks are also places for healing. Former U.S. Army soldier and Iraq War Veteran, Juan "JT" Ibanez, visited 12 national parks in 25 days last spring and documented his journey along the way.
Visit the National Park Service's calendar of events to find programs taking place this weekend. Here are some ways to observe Memorial Day in national parks:
- Attend a Memorial Day service at parks across the country, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield. Point Reyes National Seashore will host a Historic Life-Saving Service with the U.S. Coast Guard to honor fallen surfmen.
- Visit one of the 14 national cemeteries in national parks, many of which will be adorned with flags and luminaries this weekend. Parks are hosting special programs, including the 21st annual luminaria at Fredericksburg &Spotsylvania National Military Park, Avenue of Flags at Andersonville National Historic Site, and the Fields of Flags Memorial at River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
- Volunteer at a park to help us honor the tens of thousands of veterans in national cemeteries or represented in memorials. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park &Preserve, War in the Pacific National Historical Park, and Stones River National Battlefield are among parks seeking volunteers to help place flags on tens of thousands of graves.
- Listen to patriotic concerts from the 101st Airborne Division Band "Screaming Eagle Fife and Drum" at Fort Donelson National Battlefield or Civil War camp band music at Springfield Armory National Historic Site.
- Hear the personal stories of veterans in Telling:El Paso;a special performance by veterans at Chamizal National Memorial.
- Discover the origins of Memorial Day at General Grant National Memorial or see a recreation of an 1880 Decoration Day observance at Fort McHenry National Monument &Historic Shrine.
- Learn more about our servicemen and women at special ranger programs, including African American sailors of the War of 1812 at Castle Clinton National Monument or a car caravan tour discussing the fallen leaders at Chickamauga &Chattanooga National Military Park. Fort Sumter National Historic Site will host a special program remembering women who served during World War II.
- Experience military life by visiting a French and Indian War encampment at Fort Stanwix National Monument or frontier fort life demonstrations at Fort Larned National Historic Site and Fort Scott National Historic Site.
- Take a train ride featuring a World War II troop train reenactment at Steamtown National Historic Site.