Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend is the start of summer, when backyard barbecues, weekends at the lake and vacations begin in earnest.
But for many Americans, the last Monday in May takes on more somber tones with observances in thousands of cemeteries across the nation, marking graves of fallen soldiers. This weekend, in Wichita and dozens of towns across Kansas, thousands will pause a moment to pay their respects.
Memorial Day has roots dating back more than 2,500 years to the ancient Greeks, who decorated the graves of community heroes. Nationally, the tradition became popular shortly after the Civil War, when both the North and South set aside Memorial Days/Decoration Days of their own.
The last weekend of May was chosen because that’s when flowers are typically in bloom.
The following is a list of activities around the Wichita area observing Memorial Day weekend:
• Lakeview Cemetery and Funeral Home, 12100 E. 13th, 11 a.m. Monday. Service includes military flyover. Cemetery will have an Avenue of Flags.
• Maple Grove Cemetery, 1000 N. Hillside, 10 a.m. Saturday, re-dedication ceremony for the Grand Army of the Republic Veterans Pavilion. Ceremony includes bagpipes and drum, a processional by the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War. Featured speakers include Phil Blake, who helped form Operation Ensign and is the author of “They Paid the Price,” and Jay Price, director of Wichita State University’s public history program.
• Resthaven Cemetery, 11800 W. Kellogg, 11 a.m. Monday. Memorial Day events begin with a flyover of the Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16’s Jayhawk Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. A service will follow with speakers U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.
• Elmwood Cemetery, Memorial Day service, 9 a.m. Monday , 501 E. 12th Ave. in Augusta. Service includes presentation of colors and wreath. Guest speaker is U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo. In case of inclement weather, a shortened program will be held at the National Guard Armory in Augusta.
• Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery, service begins at 10 a.m. Monday at 1208 N. College, Winfield. Command Sgt. Maj. John J. Ryan, Kansas National Army Guard, will deliver the Memorial Day address. Music will be provided by the Winfield Community Band. Military honors and ceremonial wreaths will be presented by American Legion Post 10 and VFW Post 3544 and their auxiliaries. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs as seating is limited. For more information, call the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery at Winfield 620-229-2287.
• At Simmons Cemetery, 6.5 miles west of Lincoln on K-18, there will be a dedication of a Civil War veterans’ marker at 4 p.m. Saturday. The service will closely replicate those performed by the Grand Army of the Republic.
Traveling World War I exhibit
• The "Honoring Our History" Traveling World War I Exhibition will be in Salina in the parking lot of the Smoky Hill Museum, 211 W. Iron Ave., on Wednesday, May 23, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit is free to the public and is designed to honor veterans as well as raise funds and awareness for cultural institutions as it travels to 75 cities across the nation. Other stops in Kansas include one in Wichita from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, at Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Boulevard.