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Cameron Smith served three tours in Iraq as a Marine and is the director of the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Memorial Day is a holiday rooted in tradition. Every year, thousands of Oregonians participate in ceremonies, parades and other solemn events. But long before the first Memorial Day processions wound their way down city streets, long before dignitaries across the country took to podiums to honor service and sacrifice, the holiday started, informally, with a much simpler tradition: the laying of flowers upon the grave of a fallen service member. Cameron Smith

It was in the wake of the American Civil War that communities began the practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers. This military family and community tradition was later formalized as a national day of honor in Decoration Day, and what we now call Memorial Day.



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