Summer Benefits in my Backyard: Memorial Day 2018

Jonathan Kaupanger
May 21, 2018 - 2:39 pm


How it started is still up for debate. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day began as a grass roots effort to honor soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. 

Union General John A. Logan called for the first nationwide Memorial Day in 1868. He chose May 30 because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.  According to stories, May was the preferred time because of good weather and an abundance of spring flowers.

Logan’s idea for the day was simple, emphasize honor and dignity.  “Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland at the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor…” How people should do this was left up to each person.  Gen. Logan said, “In this observance, no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials.”

Whether you commemorate the day with a parade, picnic, barbeque or brass band, there is only one rule you need to follow, and that has to do with the American Flag.  On Memorial Day, the flag is to be flown at half-staff until noon and then full staff from noon to sunset. You can go here to find more American flag etiquette and guidelines.


  • VA's National Cemetery Administration host’s Memorial Day ceremonies at VA national cemeteries across the country.
  • The National Memorial Day Concert is Sunday, May 27, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. this year.  General Colin Powell, Gary Sinise and Leona Lewis are just some of the featured guests. The concert is in DC, but it will also be broadcasted live on PBS. You can check your local listings here.
  • The National Memorial Day Parade is also in D.C. but live-streamed online and shown on TV on May 28 at 2:00pm EST.
  • Native Americans who sacrificed their lives while in the US military are honored at the Memorial Day weekend Open House at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. This four day event, May 25 – 28, features American Indian artists in the Welcome Center. If you bring three cans of food and your entry fee is waived.
  • Poppy Memorial on the National Mall.  The memorial is displayed on the southwestern side of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool – with the Lincoln Memorial to the west, the Korean War Memorial to the south, the reflecting pool due north and the World War II Memorial to the east. 
  • Go to a National Park. This is a very busy weekend at our National Parks, you should try to get in before 9 a.m. Here’s just a few park events going on Memorial Day weekend.
    • Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland has ranger tours and cemetery programs you can join on Memorial Day
    • Tour bunkers with WWII re-enactors at Point Loma in Cabrillo National Monument in California
    • Learn about the US Coast Guard while touring an active station at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina
    • In South Carolina you can learn about the past from living history interpreters representing every war from the French and Indian War to today’s military at the Kings Mountain National Military Park
    • Place flags at each headstone in the Chalmette National Cemetery at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana
    • Since Memorial Day started with the Civil War, why not explore the impacts of the Civil War at Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas


Since it marks the beginning of summer, Memorial Day weekend is a great time to look for concerts. Here’s a few that might be close enough to you to check out.


  • If you want to visit the oldest Memorial Day Parade, you’ll have to travel to Alton, IL. This year marks the 151st anniversary of the town’s first Memorial Day Parade back in 1868, just three weeks after the end of the Civil War. 
  • Commerce City, CO. One of the largest parades in the Denver area is in Commerce City. This year’s parade features bands, military units and floats. 
  • Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade is Saturday, May 26 this year.  There’s a wreath laying ceremony at 11 a.m. and the parade starts at noon.  During the wreath laying, Gold Star lapel pins are presented to families who have lost loved ones.  This presentation is at Daley Plaza (Dearborn and Washington Streets)
  • Dracula, GA. With arguably one of the best named parades ever, the Dracula Memorial Day Parade is the only Memorial Day Parade in Metro Atlanta. It’s the largest in the state and starts at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day.

Other events

  • 62nd Annual Memorial Day Ceremony in Virginia starts at 10 a.m. at the Heilman Amphitheater and Shrine of Memory.  There is a patriotic music concert at 2 p.m. and the center will be open for extended hours.  Virginia’s three state veterans’ cemeteries at Amelia, Dublin and Suffolk will each have a public Memorial Day ceremony.

Restaurant discounts

  • 99 Restaurants.  Veterans and active duty military can purchase any meal and get a free entrée from a special list on Memorial Day.  Proof of service must be presented at the restaurant.
  • Domino’s Pizza.  Through May 27, two-topping pizzas are just $5.99 when military personnel order carryout. 
  • Fogo de Chao.  Veterans and active duty receive 50 percent off their meal!  Bring up to three guests with you and they can take 10 percent off their meals also!
  • Golden Corral.  Active duty and veterans get a free Memorial Day breakfast at select locations.  Call before you go!
  • Hooters.  Veterans and active duty can pick a free meal from a select menu on Memorial Day.
  • McCormick & Schmick’s.  Gold Star Parents and Souses, veterans, active duty and National Guards get a free entrée on Memorial Day.
  • Mission BBQ.  Show up on Memorial Day and active duty get free sandwiches all day.
  • SweetFrog.  Show up on Memorial Day and receive a 20 percent discount.
  • Texas de Brazil.  On Memorial Day, veterans and active duty receive 50 percent off lunch or dinner.  Bring up to seven of your friends because they can take 20 percent off their meals too!

Do you know of a program or benefit that we didn't include? Shoot us an email and let us know about it