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Memorial Day Is Lined Up

The military is an institution steeped in tradition, so it follows that Washington’s annual Memorial Day festivities, honoring service members who lost their lives defending the country, include a reliable rotation of events. From motorcycles to musicians, there is no shortage of ways to pass the long weekend on and around the Hill.


9 a.m.–noon: The U.S. Navy Memorial at Penn Quarter offers a Stories of Service Training Workshop, teaching veterans and their families how to write memoirs or tell digital stories of service.

Noon: Riders of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Tour depart from the Pentagon. Guided by the motto of “We Will Never Forget” and preceded by the roar of engines, the nonprofit Rolling Thunder Inc. encourages motorcycle-riding veterans to rumble into town in an effort to raise awareness about prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. A 1:30 p.m. musical tribute at the Reflecting Pool follows.

5 p.m.: Gates open for PBS’ National Memorial Day Concert, held on the West Lawn of the Capitol. The show starts at
8 p.m. Actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna host this year’s event, which pays tribute to three groups of people affected by war: widows whose spouses died in Iraq and Afghanistan, Korean War veterans and fallen U.S. veterans of World War I and World War II who are buried overseas. Musicians including Brad Paisley, Lionel Richie and Yolanda Adams are performing.


10 a.m.: The nonprofit Fleet Reserve Association hosts a wreath-laying ceremony at the Navy Memorial in which the public is encouraged to place flowers or ribbons on an empty wreath at the foot of the Lone Sailor statue and name who they are commemorating.

11 a.m.: A wreath-laying ceremony and program is held at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns.

1 p.m.: The official Navy-sponsored wreath-laying takes place at the Navy Memorial, followed by a performance by the U.S. Navy Band.

2 p.m.: The National Memorial Day Parade commences at Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street Northwest and proceeds along Constitution Avenue, past the White House, and ends at 17th Street. Sponsored by the American Veterans Center, this annual parade honors veterans from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan and includes units from all 50 states. The lively procession includes military vehicles, floats, marching bands, and active-duty and retired military units.

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