Sandra Scott Travels: Honor Our Veterans This Memorial Day

l Waterloo Memorial

l Waterloo Memorial

Last week I asked: Where did Memorial Day start?

In Waterloo.

l Waterloo Memorial
l Waterloo Memorial

Several places have called themselves the birthplace of Memorial Day, sometimes called Decoration Day.

But, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo as the official birthplace.

On May 5, 1866, there was a ceremony to honor local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.

It was a community-wide event; businesses closed and residents flew the American flag.

By the end of the 19th century Memorial Day ceremonies were held nationwide on May 30 and after World War I, the day was expanded to include all those who died in American wars.

In 1971, it was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.

Old time parade in Waterloo
Old time parade in Waterloo

Waterloo is home to the National Memorial Day Museum, which has extensive exhibits detailing Memorial Day, its founding, and includes those who were instrumental in organizing the first event.

It is the perfect place to celebrate Memorial Day.

This year from Thursday, May 25 to Tuesday, May 30 there will be a variety of events including arts and craft vendors, a Civil War encampment with featured impersonators, a 5K race, a car show and military services in the village cemeteries.

No Memorial Day event would be complete without a parade.

The Waterloo parade will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 26.

 Civil War soldier
Civil War soldier

There are many ways to remember our veterans on Memorial Day.

Did you ever notice that most towns and cities have Civil War soldier statues in their park or cemetery?

Look closely, they all look alike.

It seem a few years after the Civil War a New England monument company created the statues and sold them to town and cities in both the North and South.

It was years before people realized they all had identical statues.

At that time the monument company changed them so they better reflected the soldiers of the North and South.

Many Memorial Day celebrations include a reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The 272-word speech is one of American’s most famous.

Lincoln, even though he was the president, was not the keynote speaker; the great orator, Edward Everett was.

During the speech a burial party was interring people nearby adding to the somber occasion.

If you haven’t been to Gettysburg, put it on your summer “to-do” list.

If you visit during Memorial Day weekend there will be a parade at 2 p.m. that will end at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery where there will be a ceremony at 3 p.m.

That weekend there will be historic walking tours and Living History attractions.

Korean War memorial
Korean War memorial

Not far away is the Eisenhower National Historic Site, home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It is adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield.

When John and I visited we were impressed at how “middle class” the house seemed.

Of course, the Mall in Washington is where veterans of all wars are immortalized.

While the Vietnam War memorial gets the most attention I liked the Korean War memorial the best because it shows soldiers in action.

Regardless of how you plan to spend the weekend there will be a parade nearby you can attend and, most likely, some ceremony in a local cemetery.

When visiting a cemetery take time to walk around and observe the monuments; they are history preserved in stone.

Gettysburg Lee
Gettysburg Lee

Many veterans have special plaques on their stones.

You might notice that many died in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed an estimated 20 to 50 million worldwide including nearly 700,000 Americans.

Travel Trivia Tease™: Where is “America’s Leading Stamp Dealer?”

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!

Monuments are history preserved in stone.
Monuments are history preserved in stone.