Friday, May 27, 2011

VA Honors Military Sacrifice on Memorial Day


WASHINGTON (May 27, 2011)- From parades to somber ceremonies and moments
of silence, on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, Americans will honor the
sacrifices of military men and women who paid the ultimate price in
their service to our nation.

"The fallen warriors we honor on Memorial Day cherished liberty and
freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  "We owe them
eternal gratitude and we must pass those sentiments on to future

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will continue a tradition of
hosting ceremonies at its national cemeteries and other facilities
nationwide.  Many of the programs are the centerpiece of Memorial Day
events in their communities, honoring deceased Veterans and military

President Obama will speak at Arlington National Cemetery with VA Deputy
Secretary W. Scott Gould in attendance.

Secretary Shinseki will deliver the keynote address at a Memorial Day
ceremony at Fort Richardson National Cemetery in Alaska, emphasizing
VA's goal of improving service to Veterans in rural areas.  VA's Acting
Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Steve Muro, will speak at the
dedication of a new state Veterans cemetery in Newton, Miss. The
Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery was constructed with a VA grant
of nearly $7 million. VA's Assistant Secretary for Public and
Intergovernmental Affairs, Tammy Duckworth, will lay a wreath at the
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, then speak at the Hawaii
State Veterans Ceremony.

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 more than one million men and women who
died in military service during wartime, including more than 655,000
battle deaths.

At Rock Island National Cemetery in Illinois, Rep. Bobby Schilling will
present the son of a deceased World War I veteran with his father's
Silver Star certificate.

Riders with the Buffalo Soldier Motorcycle Club of Albuquerque, N.M.,
will arrive at Santa Fe National Cemetery May 28 to lay a wreath at its
memorial recognizing the unknown soldiers, women and children who died
at the nearby site of the Army's Fort Craig in the late 1800s. Many of
the Fort Craig remains, including Buffalo Soldiers, were reburied in
1976 at other military cemeteries. Three Buffalo Soldiers were later
identified and laid to rest in marked graves at Santa Fe National
Cemetery. Buffalo Soldiers served in African American regiments that
were given that name by the Indian tribes they fought and impressed with
their bravery.

On May 29, at Riverside National Cemetery in Southern California --VA's
busiest -- volunteers will read aloud the names of more than 5,000
people who were buried there since last year's Memorial Day.

VA maintains more than three million gravesites at its 131 national
cemeteries.  In 2010, VA conducted more than 111,800 burials in its
national cemeteries.  The number of annual interments is expected to
increase over the next two years.  This year's budget for VA national
cemetery operation and construction is nearly $446 million.

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 decorations.
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.

For the dates and times of Memorial Day weekend programs at VA national
cemeteries, visit

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