Local events marking Memorial Day include the May 24 parade in downtown Denver, two ceremonies in Littleton and one at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
The tradition that established the Memorial Day events calls for honoring “all veterans laid to rest in this sacred national cemetery, to all the prisoners of war and those missing in action who never returned, to all who have served and those who, even now, guard the gates of freedom worldwide.”
Denver's annual Memorial Day parade traditionally includes marching units from the military services and floats that often include groups of veterans. The parade steps off at 9 a.m. and winds through the downtown area.
On May 26, Littleton's first Memorial Day ceremony of the day starts at 8 a.m. in the Veterans Circle located in the Littleton Cemetery at 6155 S. Prince St. A second, mirror-image service will be held at 10 a.m. at the Littleton World War II Memorial in Ketring Park, 6000 S. Gallup St.
Both ceremonies in Littleton, sponsored by the Pat Hannon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4666 and the George C. Evans American Legion Post 103, follow the same program, with the El Jebel Pipe Band playing "Amazing Grace" and the All Veterans Honor Guard firing the traditional 21-gun salute.
The ceremonies will include reading of the poem “In Flanders Field” and the poem “My Plea,” written by Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Hannon, the first Littleton resident to die in the Vietnam War. There will also be a reading of a poem written by fallen Navy SEAL Danny Dietz.
At 11 a.m. there will be a ceremony near the lake at Fort Logan National Cemetery, 3698 S. Sheridan Blvd. The ceremony is sponsored by the Associated Veterans of Colorado. Featured speakers include Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and keynote speakers include Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall; Maj. Gen H. Michael Edwards, adjutant general of the Colorado Air National Guard; and Robert L. Jesse, principal undersecretary of the Veterans Affairs Health Department.
As part of the ceremonies, a group representing the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, the American Legion Auxiliary, the Retired Enlisted Association Auxiliary and the Gold Star Wives will place a ceremonial wreath at a symbolic grave marker, the honor guard will raise their rifles and fire the 21-gun salute and the bugle will play “Taps,” sending the echo across the rows and rows of gleaming white markers standing in arrow-straight rows.
In case the weather is bad, the services will be held at Verle Huffman VFW Post 9644 at 2680 W. Hampden Ave. in Sheridan.
After the Fort Logan ceremonies, VFW Post 9644 and its Ladies Auxiliary will host a luncheon at the facility, two blocks east of Federal Boulevard on Hampden Avenue.
Preparations for the ceremonies at Fort Logan include placing a small American flag adjacent to each headstone. Most of the flags will be placed May 24 by volunteers, many of them young people from a variety of scouting organizations. The same day, flags will be placed on the graves of veterans buried at the Littleton Cemetery.
The first official ceremonies honoring the fallen veterans was held when Civil War Union General John Alexander Logan, who is the individual Fort Logan is named for, was commander of the Union veterans group the Grand Army of the Republic. He issued an order that asked all members to decorate the graves of American veterans on May 30, 1868, to honor those who died serving their country.
After World War I, Decoration Day became an official holiday and later, the name was changed to Memorial Day. In 1971, Congress passed the holiday act that, among other things, made Memorial Day the last Monday in May.