In time, the honor was extended to encompass the lives lost in military service during World War I, World War II, and all American casualties during military action. Ever since the first Memorial Day order on May 30, 1868, activities around the celebration include:
- Strewing the graves of war heroes with flowers, in every U.S. city, village, and hamlet, under the supervision of the U.S. Department commanders.
- Though no specific form or ceremony is prescribed, posts and comrades arrange services and testimonials of respect.
- The Commander in Chief of the U.S. military services inaugurates the observance to honor the memory of departed comrades.
Most people, especially surviving family members of war heroes, visit the cemeteries and memorials constructed in honor of the departed souls. The celebrations commence at 3 pm Eastern Time.
The flag is lowered at half-staff, and volunteers place paper flags on individual grave sites and at National Cemeteries. Donations help to access poppies that are placed at the grave sites, a timeless tribute extolled in the poem 'In Flanders Fields', by John McCrae.
The U.S. Capitol springs to life with the National Memorial Day Concert. A live broadcast of the musical performances and speeches are aired to home audiences.
Schools, colleges, and private institutions organize services and special activities alongside national observances. There are a number of individual communities that organize memorial observances for the departed souls.
The police and fire departments remember and honor their comrades lost in line of duty, through parades. Rotary clubs, local emergency services, boy and girl scouts, and local church groups organize quizzes and competitions on this day.
There are a number of family-friendly events and services, which include:
- National Memorial Day Parade
- GI Film Festival
- Navy Memorial Service
- Air Force Memorial Service
- Kennedy Center National Memorial Day Choir Festival
- Hometown Holidays, three-day street festival
- Viva Vienna,community festival of food, crafts and music
- Wolf Trap Farm Park Music Performances, with fireworks
- Fort Ward Park Jazz Festival
- Falls Church Memorial Day Parade
Memorial Day continues to be observed with solemnity to commemorate the nation's fallen soldiers. It is a common sight to see the graves of servicemen and women decorated with flags and flowers on this day. The moment of silence at 3 p.m. and the playing of Taps and 'In Flander's Fields' add to the sunset glow.
The day is considered a harbinger of summer, a day of remembrance, and a day of national pride. People across the nation continue to celebrate and pay tribute to all those who died in each of the American wars, and in honor of all those who are currently in military service.