Memorial Day is the most complex holiday on the American calendar.
It is the unofficial beginning of a long summer of vacations in the sunshine — and a solemn day to remember the men and women who died in the service of their country.
Many Americans also use Memorial Day to honor family members and friends who have died.
They leave flowers at loved ones’ graves and honor them with remembrances.
Today is the 140th observance of Memorial Day.
The first was in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic, all veterans of the Civil War, designated a day in May to honor “the memory of our heroic dead.”
At a Memorial Day ceremony after World War II, Gen. George Patton said:
“In my mind, we are here to thank God that men like this lived, rather than regret that they died.”
In addition to being a day when buglers play taps and honor guards fire solemn 21-gun salutes, there is a special protocol to Memorial Day.
The flag is supposed to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon, then “raised briskly,” as the U.S. Flag Code directs, to the top.
It is one of the rare days when veterans are allowed to wear their old uniforms.
These Memorial Day ceremonies to honor those who perished in the defense of our nation are scheduled on the North Olympic Peninsula today: