Most Americans observe the Memorial Day holiday weekend by traveling, hosting backyard barbecues, splashing in swimming pools or engaging in other recreation.
However, Memorial Day on Monday has significance beyond being a day off for government offices, banks and many businesses. It is the day that America honors its war dead. Some veterans' organizations will observe the holiday on Monday, while the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott plans to observe it on the "old-fashioned" day of May 30.
"It's a very patriotic day," commented Leo Rapczak, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Prescott and is retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs here. "We remember all the troops and all the fallen, and a special thanks to the Iraqi (war) veterans and active duty (troops)."
Rapczak, who went for a stroll with his wife, Candace, Thursday at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, will be hard-pressed to observe any festivities on Memorial Day. The ex-Marine said he tripped over a booby trap on Christmas Day 1968 near Da Nang in Vietnam, an accident that blinded him in both eyes and tore off part of his left foot.
The main event on Monday will take place at 9 a.m. at Citizens Cemetery, 815 E. Sheldon St. For the past 13 years, the Yavapai Cemetery Association has conducted a Memorial Day observance, which follows a ceremony that began in 1910.
The observance will include musical selections by bagpipe player Denise Robinson; the Prescott Brass Ensemble under the direction of Karl Kaub; and the women's quartet "Worth Waiting 4" and soloist Kate Howell.
Members of the American Legion Post 6 Color Guard of Prescott, Camp Verde Cavalry, Arizona Rough Riders Troop 1-A and representatives of other veterans groups will form the color guard.
Public figures participating include the Rev. Valerie Garrick of Prescott First Congregational Church, County Supervisor Carol Springer, Prescott Valley Police Chief James Maxson, Washington Traditional School Principal Harold Tenney, State Rep. Andy Tobin, Kay Jones of the Chino Valley Historical Society and Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson.
Former Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett will serve once again as master of ceremonies.
The cemetery, which dates back to 1864, contains the graves of more than 2,700 county pioneers and veterans from as far back as the Civil War.
Cemetery officials invite the public to visit gravesides before and after the ceremony. Albertsons and Safeway have donated flowers for bouquets that the public can place on graves of pioneers who served in the military.
Event-goers may park nearby at Yavapai College.
The American Legion Post 40 in Chino Valley plans a Memorial Day ceremony for 11 a.m. to noon at the Chino Valley Cemetery off Road 2 South west of Highway 89, Cmdr. Mel Vinson said. Legion members plan to gather afterward for a luncheon at their post at Highway 89 and Road 3 South.
American Legion Post 78 in Humboldt plans a meal of hot dogs, beans and potato salad for its members beginning at noon Monday. The post is at 17240 Legionnaire Way.
Hundreds of veterans and their families plan to gather when the VA conducts its annual ceremony at 10 a.m. next Friday at the Bob Stump Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 500 Highway 89.
The ceremony will feature a procession with the Camp Verde Cavalry, Arizona Rough Riders, the Scottish American Military Service Color Guard, Northern Arizona All Airborne and the Young Marine Color Guard.
The American Legion Ernest A. Love Post 6 Color Guard, which Dan Tillman leads, will do the Presentation of the Colors.
Army veteran John Tapia, who received seven Purple Hearts while serving in Korea and Vietnam, will be the keynote speaker.
After his speech, women from various veterans groups, all wearing white, will create an Aisle of Honor and present wreaths at the bronze "Battlefield Cross."
The Prescott Fine Arts Chamber Singers, under JoAn Ramsay's direction, will perform a musical salute to the fallen. Kaub and John Stevens will play the echo taps, and American Legion 6 will accompany them with a gun salute.
A reception will follow at Building 15.
"We do our program on the 30th every year," said Frank Cimorelli, public affairs officer with the VA. "Historically, May 30 has always been the day our nation chose to honor its war dead."
Cimorelli said about 35 leaders of veterans service organizations, called commanders councils, meet quarterly with VA officials. A majority of the leaders support keeping the May 30 date even though it would draw more people during the Monday holiday, Cimorelli said.
The Memorial Day holiday weekend also heralds the opening of two municipal swimming pools: the Mountain Valley Splash at Mountain Valley Park in Prescott Valley and the Aquatic Center in Community Park in Chino Valley.
The Mountain Valley Splash features something new this year: a splash pad that is 68 feet in diameter and can accommodate 20 or more children at a time.
The contractor, Micon, completed the splash pad this past summer. However, the Parks and Recreation Department opted to wait until this year to open it because few weeks remained before the pool closed after Labor Day in 2007, according to Capital Projects Coordinator Kim Moon.
Moon said use of the splash pad comes with admission to the 25-yard pool.
Contact the reporter at email@example.com