Although it’s what many people on the Kenai Peninsula associate it with, Memorial Day weekend isn’t just about fishing and barbecues. It’s a time to remember those who have died in battle for this country.
Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.
In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo — which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866 — because the town made Memorial Day an annual, communitywide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
Today, Memorial Day is observed at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Communities across the country, including those on the Kenai Peninsula, take part in annual events to commemorate the day.
Memorial Day observances will be held in several locations around the Kenai Peninsula this year:
— Memorial Day services will be held at 10 a.m. at Hickerson Cemetery, Diamond Ridge Road in Homer;
— The Avenue of Flags begins at 10 a.m. at the Kenai City Cemetery, on First Avenue in Kenai;
— A memorial service will take place at noon at Leif Hansen Memorial Park, 10959 Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai;
— Memorial services will be held at noon at the Anchor Point Cemetery on Kallman Drive in Anchor Point;
— A Memorial Day program will take place at 2 p.m. at the Soldotna Memorial Park, 600 West Redoubt Avenue in Soldotna; and
— Memorial services will take place at 2 p.m. at the American Legion Cemetery on Coal Road in Ninilchik.
Our fallen soldiers have fought for so much throughout the years, and their dedication has given us the freedoms we enjoy today. Remember them — and what they fought for — this holiday.