Memorial Day: Decorating a grave at the Historic Pioneer & Veterans Cemetery

This morning we drove downtown to visit the Pioneer and Veteran’s Cemetery and leave flowers. Part of the original Memorial Day Order, designating May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…”

photo by E Groves

Just off 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix is an old cemetery, mostly hard dirt and markers lined with smooth stones

The 11 acre cemetery is set behind a fence and closed to the public except during visiting hours.

We had three artificial flowers and one small American flag.

We met three volunteers at the cemetery. The veteran’s graves were already decorated by volunteers but there was room for our flowers.

The community had a program at 9AM and the volunteers were just locking up to go home. They were kind enough to stay and show us around, we could see it was a long day for them but this is the sort of thing dedicated people do in the background of every community, making the world a nicer place with their actions.

The gravesites had little columns for inserting a spray of flowers. Max laid flowers at three different sites. It only took a few minutes.

Now we know where to go in Phoenix and what to do. Thank you to the volunteers at the Pioneers Cemetery Association. It was good to spend some time with you today. We’ll be back.

With Respect,
Mrs. Kenney

5 Things to do on Memorial Day

1. Be Traditional — decorate the grave of a soldier

2. Be Contemplative — to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

3. Be Generous — donate to a Veteran related cause like Warrior Writers, Wounded Warrior Project, Special Operations Warrior Foundation or Vietnam Veteran’s of America Donation Pick up to name a few. Charity Navigator will help you find a charity that uses it’s donations the best.

4. Be Celebratory — to to a parade or a Veteran’s event, google your community to learn more

5. Be Proud — Fly the flag, following flag etiquette

Local Note: The largest Memorial Day observance in Arizona is at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, Cave Creek Arizona. A list of other cemeteries by county can be found here.

Out of State Note: Mystic Seaport, in Connecticut had a traditional Decoration Day ceremony. You can read about it here.

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Memorial Day: A Letter from a Soldier

31 Jan 68 Tuy Hoa, Vietnam

My grandmother saved my father’s letters home in a scrapbook. This is one of them.

Dear Mom,

My father and his best friend traveled to Vietnam from San Francisco. When they landed in November, they went in different directions


You can stop worrying about me. The truce violations here put down in a day and all is quiet.

Lt. Brooks was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. He had been in Vietnam less than two months.

Brooks got killed on 28 Dec and was buried on 4 Jan. His wife just wrote to tell me. She is having a baby in May. Shame about this whole war. That sight at the west end of town is really sickening.

My father came home, changed his clothes, put on a suit and went to work. He volunteered at vet events for the rest of his life.

The stoical VN go on celebrating as usual. 2 villages 2 miles west of here razed by the air strikes and artillery so they aren’t so happy. The MAC V compound was untouched so that makes me happy.

He took me to visit Rick Brook’s name at the wall and now my sisters and I take our children.

I hate this place and wish it would go away.

30 years later he asked me to take this picture of him at the FDR Memorial in DC.

Don’t feel too much like writing just wanted to let you know I was OK.

 —Jim

Remember.

Etiquette for Displaying the American Flag

Note: Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, of Columbia, S.C., killed in Vietnam on March 25, 1969. His letters return from Vietnam made headlines. I linked to the Stars and Stripes article here. Excerpts from the letters are here. A pdf describing Gold Star Mother and Vets return to Vietnam here. You can remember Sgt. Flaherty by visiting his name on the Vietnam wall at  Panel 28W Line 035.