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Itar-Tass, Russia

US Celebrates Memorial Day

By Ivan Lebedev

Translated By Heather Stetten

29 May 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Russia - Itar-Tass - Original Article (Russian)

On the last Monday in May, Americans celebrated a national holiday, Memorial Day. Just as last year, and many years before that, they remembered those fallen in all the wars led by the United States of America, from the Civil War between the North and South to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Traditionally in Washington on this day, there is a sea of people and of emotions: the tears of those who came to the fresh graves of Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery, the sad thoughtfulness of veterans at the Vietnam War Memorial, the ostentatious patriotism of the crowd gathering to watch the colorful parade downtown.

President Barack Obama placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and gave a speech. He reminded us that the “nation is still at war,” but by the end of 2014, U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan. In the past 12 months, 217 American citizens have died. There are more people to be remembered than last year.

Veterans from the Rolling Thunder movement brought wreaths to the war memorials. On Memorial Day, they come to the Capitol on motorcycles from across the country. Usually there are about 500,000. This year, the 15-kilometer "ride for freedom" along the central avenue — from the Pentagon, past Congress to the Lincoln Memorial — lasted three and a half hours. The roar of the powerful Harley-Davidsons served as a reminder that many U.S. soldiers who fought in Korea and Vietnam are still considered missing-in-action.

In Vietnam, 58,000 Americans were killed; 54,000 in Korea, 4,500 in Iraq and more than 2,000 in Afghanistan. On the fronts of World War II, 16 million American soldiers and officers fought; 406,000 of them did not return home. However, the Civil War (1861-1865) was the bloodiest for America, taking the lives of about 620,000 people. The reconciling descendants perpetuated the names of its heroes, both from the victorious North and the defeated South. Virginia, Washington’s neighboring state, served as the main stronghold for the Confederate Army — the names of the streets and highways are reminders of General Lee, Beauregard and Stonewall Jackson.

Without reconciliation, there would probably be no remembrance. The day was not celebrated for the first time until three years after the Civil War (in 1868), when veterans under General John Logan decided to decorate the graves of 20,000 soldiers with flowers in Arlington Cemetery. After World War I, on the last Monday of May, Americans began to pay tribute to those who perished in all wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was announced as a national holiday.



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