Americans began honoring their war dead the day before Memorial Day with a ceremony in Boston Harbor for the 37 men who died aboard the U.S. frigate Stark, and recreational areas were braced for crowds of visitors at the traditional beginning of the summer season.
About 35 veterans gathered on the deck of the Constitution in Boston Harbor for a brief tribute to the sailors killed in the Iraqi missile attack on the Stark, and cast a memorial wreath adrift in the water.
Today, the Constitution, affectionately known as Old Ironsides and the oldest ship in the Navy, was to fire its traditional 21-gun Memorial Day salute.
New Jersey residents honored their war dead Sunday in a ceremony at North Hanover that was made more poignant by the memory of the two New Jersey men who died on the Stark.
Many holiday celebrants avoided big public festivities and gathered in smaller groups, but there wasn't necessarily safety in smaller numbers.
Beer Keg Casualty
An aluminum beer keg exploded Sunday at a camp outside Morris, Ill., and a young Ohio man was injured when he was struck by fragments, authorities said. Police said the keg apparently had been too close to a bonfire.
Gloomy weather along the Atlantic shore kept many people away from New Jersey beach resorts. "The crowd is terrible. The weather is terrible," said Marshall Wood, assistant police chief in Atlantic City. In New York, thousands of people were expected to crowd Coney Island and Jones Beach for the holiday.
In other weekend activities, governors or their representatives from 11 of the 13 original states met Sunday near Independence Hall in Philadelphia for a fireworks display that was part of events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention there.
Vice President George Bush and former Chief Justice Warren Burger were to speak today in ceremonies opening a four-month celebration.
In today's ceremonies honoring the nation's war dead, Navy Secretary James H. Webb is to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, and Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) is to speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
Civil War Marker
A Civil War hero will be honored in Kenton, Ohio, as a state historical marker is placed at the grave of Jacob Parrott, a Union soldier who received the country's first Medal of Honor.
At Ft. Mitchell, Ala., the Veterans Administration will dedicate the 110th national cemetery, 125 years after the first one was established. The 280-acre grounds will be the site of 100,000 graves for veterans and their dependents.
In New York City, taps will be played and wreaths tossed into the Hudson River, and veterans will march up Broadway to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in upper Manhattan.