The future of Memorial Day: Who will remember?

I wonder if the Memorial Day traditions of decorating graves of loved ones, sometimes even graves so old that we never met the people buried there, will continue into the next couple of generations.

From the time she was little, a co-worker went with her grandmother and later her parents every year to the family cemetery plots to clean gravestones and place flowers for Memorial Day. She still pays that respect to generations past.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was declared a holiday in 1868 to remember those who died in battle. Over the years, the tradition has come to include flowers on any loved ones graves but special services still are held to remember veterans.

My friend’s experience at cemeteries has me thinking. In previous years, families tended to live closer together with adult children making their homes nearby. Entire sections of fields became private cemeteries for generations of people from the same family or those from a single community. Churches, like my own rural church, had cemeteries right next to them and still do.

But we all know times have changed.

Today, I live a couple hours from where my dad is buried. My mother puts flowers on his grave and on the graves of her parents. As I get older and have fewer obligations at my own house, I like to think I’ll drive there to decorate his grave. It’s something I want to do, but I also don’t think it should just be an “older person’s” job to remember the holiday’s meaning.

Looking to future generations, there might be a different approach to Memorial Day. Can you virtually decorate a grave? I’m sure you can virtually visit one.

It certainly is interesting to wonder if social traditions will change dramatically when it comes to honoring the dead. I’m glad the American Legions still work hard to carry on the original traditions of the holiday.

Here are some Memorial Day services organized by military groups in the area:

Arlington: Memorial Day Dedication, Arlington Veteran’s Memorial, 10 a.m. Monday. I’ve seen this cemetery decorated on Memorial Day with a breath-taking display of flags.

Chancellor: American Legion Post No. 283 Memorial Day program and Flanders Field ceremony, 9:30 a.m. Monday, Chancellor Reformed Church; Auxiliary will serve rolls and coffee after the program.

Brandon: VFW Three Rivers Post 4726 and American Legion Post 318 will hold an 8:30 a.m. ceremony Monday at the Brandon Cemetery with a breakfast following at the Post Home on Main Avenue.

Dell Rapids: American Legion Post 65 and auxiliary will hold services Monday at several cemeteries and in Dell Rapids. In case of rain, all events will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the Dell Rapids Middle School commons. The schedule includes: 8 a.m. at Logan Reformed Cemetery, 8:40 a.m. at Stordahl Cemetery, and 9 a.m. at Willow Creek Cemetery. A parade will begin at 10 a.m . on Fourth Street in Dell Rapids, followed by a ceremony in the city park, a service and program at the Dell Rapids Cemetery, Dells Nursing and Rehab Center and Orchard Hills. A brat feed will be from 11 am. to 1 p.m. at the Legion Hall
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Harrisburg: American Legion Post 45 will host a program at 11 a.m. Monday at Pleasant View Cemetery (on South Cliff Avenue). Lunch will follow at the American Legion.

Hartford: American Legion Post 118 will have a program with a speaker at 7 p.m. Monday at the Legion Hall on Main, followed by a wreath ceremony at Memorial Park and refreshments at the Legion.

Humboldt: America Legion Post 62 will have a 10:30 a.m. program Monday at the community center, followed by a service at both of the cemeteries in town and a potluck.

Renner: The Thompson-Schjodt Legion 307 Memorial Day service begins at 10 a.m. Monday at Swedona Covenant Cemetery, 5 miles east of Renner. Coffee will be served after the service at the Legion Hall.

Sioux Falls: Annual Memorial Day event begins at 10 a.m. with a medley of songs by the Sioux Falls Municipal Band before the 10:30 a.m. program. Butch Haugen with the Veterans of Foreign Wars will speak and the El Riad Fife & Drum Corps will participate. In case of rain, the program will be at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 628, 3601 S. Minnesota Ave.

Valley Springs: Charles R. Doman Post 131 will have an 11 a.m. program Monday at the Post Home, 401 Broadway Ave., followed by a service at the Valley Springs Cemetery at 11:30 a.m. and catered dinner at the Legion Hall.