Memorial Day: more than just a day off


Jordyn DuBois/Iowa State Daily

A member of the Iowa State Air Force ROTC stands guard in the Gold Star Hall of Memorial Union to honor missing in action, and prisoners of war on POW/MIA day. 

Jake Webster

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer for many, with the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimating that 43 million Americans will travel this weekend. Beyond creating a long weekend to get away and enjoy the warming weather or hold barbecues, Memorial Day has serious origins.

Memorial Day’s more somber traditions include visits to cemeteries to honor those who died in military service for the United States. President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Arlington National Cemetery Thursday to pay his respects to America’s deceased.

Every year, the Ames Patriotic Council sponsors a Memorial Day parade.

This year, the parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday outside Ames City Hall, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m. at the Ames Municipal Cemetery.

Should there be inclement weather, the parade will be canceled and the memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. in the Ames City Hall auditorium.

Ames has celebrated Memorial Day with a march to a cemetery to honor those who have died in war dating back to at least 1944, according to a program from the event that year.

Ames City Hall, the public library and most city departments will be closed Monday in observance of the holiday. Iowa State will not be holding classes, university offices will be closed and CyRide will not be operating.

The university will honor faculty and staff and their spouses who have died in the past year with a ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday at the Reiman Ballroom in Iowa State’s Alumni Center

By statute, Memorial Day is observed annually in the United States on the last Monday in May. This date was adopted by all 50 states by the mid-1970s. Memorial Day began in the wake of the American Civil War, as a way to honor the hundreds of thousands of those who died in the struggle fought over slavery.

Multiple southern states including Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee continue to have a separate holiday to honor fallen Confederate soldiers.

The late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, introduced a bill in every new Congress from 1987, until his death in 2012, that would change the date of Memorial Day to its previous date of May 30.

“Mr. President, in our effort to accommodate many Americans by making the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation,” Inouye said on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1999 when re-introducing the bill.