ANDERSON — There is a sea of tiny American flags speckling the cemeteries throughout Madison County in preparation for Memorial Day.

The flags are a silent reminder of the sacrifice and dedication of those who served their country, said Mike Wilson, the sergeant-at-arms for Anderson American Legion Post 127.

“Memorial Day is to honor the veterans that have served – whether they paid the ultimate price or the veterans still alive,” he said. “It’s still to honor all veterans and give special honor to those that have passed on.”

Wilson is one of the many veterans who walked among the headstones this weekend placing flags over the graves of his fallen military brothers and sisters.

Before Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971 and moved to the last Monday in May, the nation honored those who had died while serving in the Civil War with Decoration Day on May 30. The day of observance was expanded to honor all servicemen and women after World War I.

The once solemn holiday, however, has since become a day of picnics, cookouts and pool parties.

"There are people who were not real crazy about being where we were and doing what we were doing, but we were doing it for everyone in this country so they can live free, so they can have a good life,” Wilson said.

He urged people to attend local events honoring veterans as a way to show appreciation for the sacrifices that were made.

“There were a lot of other people who went before you to see that you live in the greatest country that is on the face of this earth,” Wilson said.

Daleville American Legion Post 446 Commander Mike Whitworth said another way to show appreciation is by saying thank you.

“If people see a veteran or anything, they need to thank them for their service,” he said. “I was at Lowe’s the other day and a teenage girl tapped me on the shoulder and thanked me for my service. It felt pretty good. It made me feel that the younger generation has not forgotten the veterans."

In keeping with the holiday’s original observance, here are a few things you can do this Memorial Day to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.

Display the U.S. flag

The flag should fly at half-staff from sunrise until noon to commemorate those who have died and raised to full staff after noon to honor living veterans.

Attend a parade

There are countless Memorial Day parades to honor veterans throughout Indiana. Dress up in red, white and blue clothes and enjoy the festivities while you pay tribute to those who have served their country.

Visit local cemeteries or a memorial

Attend one of the many Memorial Day ceremonies taking place in Madison County to remember fallen soldiers and veterans or visit the grave of a fallen soldier and place flowers there.

Read the original proclamation

In 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation for a nationwide Decoration Day observance. The proclamation, called General Orders No. 11, reminds us to cherish the “memory of our heroic dead” and never forget “the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Invite a Veteran

Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Access to Culture and an international etiquette and modern manners expert, said thank a veteran by inviting them to your holiday gathering or take them a meal early in the day.

Pause at 3 p.m.

In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed so that the nation could pause briefly together to reflect on the sacrifices made to provide freedom for all.

Remember the Reason

Before guests dive into the dip, thank them for joining your celebration and say a few words regarding the true holiday meaning, Schweitzer said. Recognize any veterans present and thank them for their sacrifice. She said while Memorial Day is a day of family fun, it’s important to remember why the holiday was created and honor those who gave their all.

Follow Traci L. Miller @_TraciMiller on Twitter, email her at traci.miller@heraldbulletin.com, or call her at 765-640-4805.

The following Memorial Day observances are planned in Madison County:

• A Memorial Day program will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Middletown American Legion Post 216, 450 N. 10th St., Middletown. Bring your lawn chairs.

• Elwood's traditional Memorial Day parade will start at 10 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of the Dollar General store, 1900 S. Anderson St., Elwood, and go downtown where a memorial service will take place in front of City Hall, 1505 South B St.

• Memorial Day observance at noon Monday at the Veteran's Memorial Flagpole, Anderson Memorial Park Cemetery, 6806 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Special speaker will be Chaplain Obadiah Smith Jr.

• Members of Boy Scout Troop 301 will lead the annual traditional Remembrance ceremony at noon Monday at Maplewood Cemetery, 200 College Drive, Anderson, on the Anderson University campus for all branches of the military. Special guests will be state Sen. Tim Lanane and a U.S. Marine veteran, also scheduled to speak, and the laying of several wreaths. The ceremony should end around 12:45 p.m.

• Memorial Day cookout, starts at noon, Camp Chesterfield, Maxon Fellowship Center, 50 Lincoln Drive, Chesterfield. For more information, visit www.campchesterfield.net or call 765-378-0235.

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