San Diegans honor the fallen on a somber Memorial Day with these events

Memorial Day is a time to pause and reflect as a nation.

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In recent history, Memorial Day has meant the unofficial start to summer but for a military town like San Diego, the true meaning of the holiday can be felt across the county.

The national holiday, which is held the last Monday of May each year, honors the military service members who died in service to their country. In San Diego -- home to more than a half-dozen military bases -- thousands of American flags fly this weekend on the gravesites of tens of thousands of military servicemembers who are buried at the county's two national cemeteries: Miramar and Fort Rosecrans.

Aboard USS Midway Museum a wreath-laying ceremony will be held on the ship's flight deck and local leaders and the public pay tribute to the fallen. The event is open to the public and those who would like to participate can take part in several events aboard the Midway throughout the holiday.

"Many youth were in attendance for the event aboard the former battleship, including Serfina Escolano-Ellington a 10th Grader at Creative Children Performing Arts Academy. Serfina wanted to "learn more about it and to learn our history and the people who have honored our country."

USS Midway Museum spokesperson David Koontz said events like this are important to carry on the legacy of our military servicemembers.

"There’s such a small percentage of the population of the United States that’s actually in the military, and there’s fewer and fewer veterans every day, so I think there’s a concern that the sacrifices that our servicemen and women have made over the years is kind of getting lost in the shuffle, so it’s really important that we have a ceremony like this, even if it’s only once a year,” Koontz said.

Atop Mount Soledad, the annual Memorial tribute will honor U.S. Marines killed in combat in Afghanistan. The Marines were assigned to a unit nicknamed "Darkhorse," which is based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The event is open to the public.

The Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial held a ceremony honoring the U.S. Marines killed in combat while serving in Sangin, Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011.

And, events were being held at VFW and veteran outposts across the county, including in Escondido, Julian and Fallbrook. In Alpine at 11 a.m., VFW 9578 will host their own event with lunch and live performances.

In Coronado, Star Park will be the hub for Memorial Day events, including a proclamation by the mayor, a rifle salute and playing of the Taps and more.

Some are taking a more active approach to honoring the fallen with workouts. Gyms across the county will partake in "The Murph," a workout to honor fallen U.S. Navy SEAL Michael Murphy. Find participating gyms here, or try it on your own. The Murph is a 1 mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another mile run.

SeaWorld San Diego is honoring military servicemembers with a flag ceremony, military band performances and a firework salute. Active-duty and military veterans can get free one-day admission for themselves and three guests through May.

The nation will collectively take a pause at 3 p.m. local time. The National Moment of Remembrance asks Americans to observe a moment of silence to honor the fallen.

San Diegans lined the streets of Kensington for the annual "Holiday at Home" Memorial Day parade.

What is Memorial Day?

The holiday takes place annually on the last Monday in May and is a dedicated day for honoring U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States armed forces.

Over 1.3 Million Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

When was Memorial Day first celebrated?

Memorial Day was originally called "Decoration Day." On May 30 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, established Decoration Day as a way for the nation to honor the graves of those who died in the Civil War with flowers, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

It is believed that May 30th was chosen by Logan as the day to observe Decoration Day because flowers would be in bloom nationwide, according to the VA.

What state first celebrated Memorial Day?

There are debates over which city was the origin place of Memorial Day, although the first large observation was held at Arlington National Cemetery for a crowd of about 5,000 in 1868.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the official "birthplace" of the holiday, according to the VA.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day both honor the U.S. military community, but both holidays serve different purposes.

When was it declared a federal holiday?

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, placing it as the last Monday in May. According to the VA, the day was expanded to honor all those who have died in American wars.

Congress in December 2000 passed and the president signed into law "The National Moment of Remembrance Act," to ensure those who sacrificed their lives for the country were not forgotten.

How to observe Memorial Day

At 3 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to take part in the National Moment of Remembrance, a time to pause in a moment of silence to honor those who have died serving the U.S.

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