But at Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery, a group of veterans are working to ensure people remember the solemn origins of Memorial Day.
“When I think about Memorial Day, I think of coming to this place and thinking about my comrades that are here, the sacrifices that people that were and are in the military are making for our country,” said Stephanie Wells, a retired member of the Air Force.
What Memorial Day Means
Memorial Day is a day to remember those lost fighting for our freedom.
John Nahodyl, a retired USAF Tech Sergeant and chaplain for the honor guard, was with Wells.
“At places like Fort Logan and military cemeteries around the country, this is where we see the true cost of freedom. Because this is the true cost of freedom,” Nahodyl said, gesturing at the cemetery’s sea of white headstones. “And this is only a small portion.”
Memorial Day dates back to 1868, when Americans started celebrating “Decoration Day.” It was a time to decorate the gravestones of fallen Civil War soldiers with flowers. As Nahodyl points out, it wasn’t until after World War I that the country started using the day to honor service members who died in all American wars.
Memorial Day became a national holiday in 1971.
According to a 2019 story from The Colorado Sun, the Fort Logan All Veterans Honor Guard was founded in the early 90s by three members of Lakewood’s American Legion Post 179. The ever-growing honor guard sometimes performs services at five military funerals in one day.
More than 400,000 veterans live in Colorado. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show that nearly 1 in 10 Coloradans is a veteran.
At 214 acres, Fort Logan contains over 140,000 graves of veterans and their spouses.
“We honor those who have served our country and, to duplicate a cliché,” Nahodyl said, “Some gave all, all gave some.”
Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at email@example.com.