Payson people were among those gathering at picnics, parades and military services, observing a holiday that was established May 5, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War.
Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared May 30 as the official observance. Services were held that first year at Arlington National Cemetery, where there were more than 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.
Logan had told his troops: "Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."
To date, 1.1 million Americans have died in the nation's wars.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, to be commemorated on the last Monday in May.
With the flag at half-mast Sunday, some 40 people, members of Payson's veterans' organizations and others, gathered at the entrance to Pioneer Cemetery. There were songs to sing and stories to tell.
Those who were there found it difficult to talk about where they had been and what they had seen, about the friends and comrades who had died in combat. The speeches were brief and choked with emotion.
But it was important to remember, they said.
They prayed for the men and women fighting in Kosovo.
And, at the end of the ceremony, with the sound of taps still echoing in the pine trees, they wandered back to their cars and returned to their daily lives.
Some stayed just a while longer, walking among the gravestones, reading the inscriptions.
Pete Schultz, a veteran of World War II, was a flight engineer on a B-29.
"We came out for the service and then, we were just looking at the headstones," he said. "Some from the 30s -- you wonder what they were doing here in the 30s."
Donna Garrels, chairman of the Pioneer Cemetery, went around to the graves, looking to see if any of the veterans' graves had been forgotten. Garrels' son, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is buried in the cemetery. Six generations of her husband's family are also buried there.
The day before, members of Payson's veterans groups had been out to the cemetery to put small American flags on the graves.
"They left one out," she said.
She went to the car and brought back a flag and put it on the grave of Morris Williams, World War II Army veteran.
"It's a nice, quiet place up here," said Schultz. "A lot of veterans here."