It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for physical training.
Traffic was backed up at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was moving way too slowly.
I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more impatient.
The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial plaque.
My concern at the time, however, was getting past the bottleneck,
getting out of the rain and getting to PT on time.
All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started again,
the car in front of me stopped. A soldier, a private of course,
jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.
I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up everyone for who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking. I couldn't wait to see the butt-chewing that
he was going to get for making me late.
He was getting soaked to the skin. His BDUs were plastered to his frame.
I watched-as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small
American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the rain,
and set it upright again.
Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back to his car, and drove off.
I'll never forget that incident. That soldier, whose name I will never know,
taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures.
That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag --
encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget.
I will keep the faith. I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier."
I thank God for examples like that.
And on this Memorial Day,
I will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom,
and one private, soaked to the skin, who honored them.
True account written by Army Captain John Rasmussen
Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service. In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. The National Moment of Remembrance was established as an act of Congress that asks Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day.
How to Participate
Discover Memorial Day Traditions and ActivitiesEvery Memorial Day, families and communities across the nation take time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Americans observe this special holiday in many different ways. Review some of the most popular Memorial Day traditions below.
Displaying the FlagOn Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon. In the morning, the flag should be raised momentarily to the top and then lowered to half-staff. Americans can also honor prisoners of war and those missing in action by flying the POW/MIA flag.
Visiting Grave SitesMemorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because communities honored their war dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Many Americans make special flower arrangements and deliver them as a family to grave sites of their loved ones and ancestors.
Participating in the National Moment of RemembranceIn accordance with a congressional resolution passed in 2000, Americans pause wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.
Visiting Local Veterans’ Homes and HospitalsMany living American veterans require long-term medical care or housing assistance, and they can often feel forgotten. The Memorial Day holiday is a great time to let them know that we appreciate their sacrifice and that of their families and their friends lost in battle.
Attending Memorial Day ParadesThe Memorial Day parade is a time-honored tradition in cities and towns across America. Neighbors come together to remember with pride those who sacrificed so much for our country.
Experiencing the Nation’s MemorialsMemorial Day can also be an opportunity to visit or read about the national memorials in Washington, DC, as well as local memorials around the country.
Brushing up on Family and American HistoryMemorial Day is a favorite time for Americans to read their family history, look at old photographs, and learn about their ancestors, especially those who died in the service of their nation. It’s also an occasion for reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and other historic and patriotic speeches by presidents and leaders of the armed services.
Wearing Memorial Day PoppiesThe tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields”by John McCrea. War worker Moina Michael made a personal pledge to always wear red silk poppies as an emblem of “keeping the faith with all who died,” and began a tradition that was adopted in the United States, England, France, Australia, and more than 50 other countries.
To remind all Americans of the importance of remembering those who
sacrificed for their freedom and what it means to be an American.
To provide Americans throughout the world an opportunity to join this expression of gratitude in an act of unity.
To make Memorial Day relevant, especially to younger Americans.
Putting the Memory Back in Memorial Day
Live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol!
Sunday, May 29, 2016 8:00 p.m. ET
The program will be hosted by Tony Award winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award winner Gary Sinise.
On the eve of Memorial Day, a star-studded lineup will grace the stage for one of PBS' highest-rated programs. This multi-award-winning television event has become an American tradition, honoring the military service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform, their families at home and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.