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America Celebrates Memorial Day, Honors Veterans

Americans around the country will be attending parades and ceremonies today that will honor the nation's war dead.

Other Memorial Day traditions include barbecues and beaches. Hot and humid conditions are expected in many areas, with temperatures reaching the 90's along the East Coast.

More than one thousand American flags will fly in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, on Memorial Day.

World War Two veteran Perrie Sheldon started The Veterans Walk of Flags four years ago — and the display draws visitors from around the region.

The memorial is located in three downtown parks and honors veterans from the War of 1812 through the Iraq War. Each flag displays the veteran's name, their branch of service and rank.

More than 30 volunteers will gather Monday to erect the display.

Memorial Day is a time when America officially remembers those who have given their lives for the country.

But yesterday there were many ceremonies in advance of the holiday.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg marched in a parade in Queens with veterans and current military personnel.

In Minnesota, there was a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis. Today, women veterans will be honored at Fort Snelling.

Civil War soldiers will be remembered in Memorial Day ceremonies today at Lakewood Cemetery in south Minneapolis.

About 2200 Union Army veterans are buried at Lakewood.

Civil War re-enactors will lead tours and share stories of the men they portray.

Today's ceremony starts at 10:30 am. After the ceremony, the re-enactors will march to the cemetery's Grand Army of the Republic section to talk with visitors about the Civil War soldiers buried there.

Re-enactors will be posted at various graves with biographies of the men.

And in New Orleans, parts of the Chalmette National Cemetery reopened yesterday to pay tribute to veterans who lost their lives while serving the country. The cemetery had been closed since Hurricane Katrina hit last August.

President Bush lays a wreath today at Arlington National Cemetery.

For veterans of the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Brigade who have recently returned home from Iraq, Memorial Day is a time to celebrate their safe return but also to acknowledge the sometimes difficult transition back to civilian life.

For some Athens area soldiers, the transition is made more difficult by ongoing memories and nightmares of a stressful year in Iraq. Many, including Captain Andrew Lane, are celebrating family reunions.

The 48th lost 26 soldiers in Iraq, including eleven soldiers who died in an eleven-day period last summer.

Sargent Steve Wilson, a National Guardsman and military policeman, says he still has bad dreams and fights depression.

Wilson says — quote — "It's hard at first trying to adjust back from what it was over there.

"I don't guess I'll ever be the same person. Hopefully, I'll become a better person."

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has urged all Connecticut citizens to take a moment Monday to remember the sacrifices of the nation's military members.

She issued a proclamation officially marking the "National Moment of Remembrance" on Memorial Day, which Rell called "perhaps our most important American holiday."

"No other holidays would be possible without those who died for freedom since the founding of our nation," Rell said in a statement Sunday.

Citizens are asked to reflect for moment at 3 p.m. For those in their cars at that time, the governor suggested they turn on their headlights as a show of support.

Rell pointed out that there are many ways for citizens to honor U.S.service members past and present by attending local Memorial Day services, corresponding with overseas troops, visiting veterans' graves or by simply flying the U.S. flag.

"We need to do a better job of remembering what Memorial Day is all about especially during this time of war," Rell said. "It's about recognizing the incredible sacrifices of our veterans and those who continue to serve our great nation."

Since March 2002, 29 members of the military with ties to Connecticut and two civilian contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The loss of each one of these heroic men and women truly America's best tears at our hearts," Rell said. "We owe them a debt of gratitude that is impossible to repay."

The upstate New York village credited with holding the nation's first Memorial Day begins commemorating the holiday today.

The Memorial Day observation in Waterloo in Seneca County got underway this morning with the opening of the "Healing Field" — a display of 14-hundred American flags at the Huntington Living Center.

Thousands are expected to visit the Healing Field between today and Tuesday. The Healing Field Foundation and Flag Memorial program spontaneously emerged from a patriotic desire of local residents to honor the memory of the victims of the September 11th terrorists attacks.

Waterloo held the first Memorial Day — then called Decoration Day — in 1866 to honor soldiers killed in the Civil War.

President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 signed the legislation that named the Finger Lakes village the official "Birthplace of Memorial Day."

People will gather all around the metro area today to mark Memorial Day and honor veterans and those killed serving in the U.S. military.

At 10:30 am, a Memorial Day service will be held at Riverside Park's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Afterwards, participants will make a remembrance walk to Grant's Tomb.

At 11 am, people will gather at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for a wreath-laying ceremony and flyover.

Organizers are billing the Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade in Queens as the largest parade in the nation. Ten thousand people are expected to march down Northern Boulevard beginning at 1 pm.