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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Take 5: Places to Visit on Memorial Day

Updated: May 31, 2021

This weekend marks the annual observance of Memorial Day, which honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

It’s believed that designating a holiday to honor the military dead, which later became known as today's Memorial Day, began with humble beginnings in Columbus, Miss. Immediately after the Civil War, on April 25, 1866, a group of the city’s women placed flowers on Confederate soldiers’ graves at Friendship Cemetery. The women noticed that the graves of Union soldiers were barren of flowers so they adorned their graves as well. A similar tradition, known as Decoration Day, began in New York by a Union veteran of the Civil War. What we celebrate today became an official federal holiday in 1971 and is observed on the last Monday in May.

There are so many ways to honor those who have passed in preserving our freedoms, from family members we have lost in recent wars to Mrs. Canant — her first name is unknown, — the only Confederate nurse officially recognized by the U.S. government, buried in that Friendship Cemetery of Columbus, Miss.

A multinational peace force including U.S. Marines was sent to the Middle East in 1982 during the civil war in Lebanon. On Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove into the Marine Corps. headquarters in Beirut, killing 241 marine, navy and army personnel. Those Marines are honored with a wall of names and a statue at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, North Carolina. “One of our mottos is we will never forget,” said Fernando Schiefelbein, a retired Marine who gives tours of the sacred space.

The serene gardens outside Camp LeJeune also include the Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial Beam from the World Trade Center in New York and the Montford Point Marine Memorial, which honors those African American Marines who fought in World War II under segregation until President Harry Truman incorporated them into the full Marine Corps.

The Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial in Conyers, Ga., offers a “visual and interactive” tribute to veterans in a three-acre serene setting at Black Shoals Lake. One of the highlights is the statue honoring all military services, "warfront" enclaves that describe the many war zones, a homefront section that portrays the hardships and changes at home that citizens faced and videos to help visitors understand the concept and ideas behind the development of the memorial.

The Annual Memorial Day Ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Monday, May 31, 2021, at the Main Stage. The keynote speaker will be Lt. Col. Stacey L. Hanson.

Three times this Columbus, Ga., museum has been named the “Best Free Museum in North America” by USA Today and most recently was labeled the “Best History Museum.” And with good reason. Built to tell the story of the U.S. Army Infantryman, it contains more than 70,000 artifacts and incredibly detailed exhibits of America’s eight more famous infantry battles. There’s also the World War II Company Street, Vietnam Memorial Plaza and the Global War on Terrorism Memorial. The museum has been closed due to the pandemic, but the campus is open. Check their Facebook page for updates.

What started as a tribute to D-Day has turned into a campus of buildings hosting several high-quality exhibits. There's also the new Higgins Hotel, named for the man who created the amphibious boats used in the invasion of Normandy.

Today, the National WWII Museum’s exhibits cover the many aspects of the war that changed the world, in a voice that is intimate and personal. Exhibits — both standing and revolving — not only highlight the role of world leaders, but also the everyday men and women who found the strength and courage to accomplish the extraordinary. Don’t miss the incredible “Beyond All Boundaries” interactive film in the Solomon Victory Theater, which offers a great overview of the war.

The folks that created the museum believe that the peacetime history of Barksdale Air Force Base is as significant as those years at war. What you’ll find here are exhibits featuring vintage aircraft like the venerable B-17 and B-24 bombers of World War II, along with their best “Little Friend,” the P-51 Mustang. There are items from the Cold War, such as the B-52D and B-52G Stratofortress, and the highest and fastest flying jet aircraft ever, the MACH 3+ SR-71 Blackbird.

Be sure to enter the WWII-era briefing room to enjoy the 20-minute video about the history of Barksdale AFB.

In addition, there are more planes on display in the air park.

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