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Memorial Day weekend is known as the unofficial start of summer, and for many, the long weekend is a time for picnics and barbecues, the first trip to the beach, and lots of retail sales. The true meaning of Memorial Day, however, is to honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. In Arlington, this meaning is observed not only on Memorial Day, but all year long.
There are few more poignant places to honor those who have given their lives serving our country than Arlington National Cemetery. You may choose to attend the annual Memorial Observance (this year's Presidential Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath-Laying Ceremony is May 27 at 11 a.m.), take a guided interpretive tour with Arlington National Cemetery Tours, or create a customized itinerary using the cemetery's ANC Explorer app.
Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) honor America's fallen heroes by placing more than 235,000 flags at gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery. This tradition, known as "Flags In," has been conducted annually since 1948, with the flags remaining through Memorial Day. Additionally, the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, holds an annual Memorial Day ceremony that includes the scattering of rose petals in tribute to departed comrades.
Other special sights to consider visiting in Arlington over Memorial Day are the Air Force Memorial and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial (both within walking distance of the Pentagon and Pentagon City Metro stations or accessible by taxi), and the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima), a short walk from the Rosslyn Metro. Each of these majestic memorials reflects a unique part of American history and service members who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Originating in 1988 as a demonstration for missing in action (MIA) and prisoners of war (POW) following the Vietnam War, Rolling Thunder has evolved into an annual display of patriotism and respect for all who defend America. It is the world’s largest single-day motorcycle event. May 26 marks the 32nd annual Rolling Thunder Run, for which tens of thousands of riders will gather at 7 a.m. at the Pentagon, traveling together at noon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. At the nearby Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, there will be speakers and music.
Wherever you may be, we hope you’ll take a moment during your Memorial Day weekend to honor those lost protecting the United States.