When SAME was founded in 1920, its charter members announced that the new Society would be founded for “no selfish ends. It is dedicated to patriotism and national security.” Along with supporting the nation’s engineering needs, the Society is dedicated to supporting the veterans and servicemembers who build, maintain, and rely on our nation’s infrastructure and all those who serve in uniform. This Memorial Day, TME looks back at the holiday’s history and how SAME members are honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
Honoring those who had fought and laid down their life for the United States is a tradition as old as the country itself, but marking a specific day for remembrance has its roots in the years after the Civil War. In the late 1860s, Americans began holding unofficial ceremonies for fallen Civil War soldiers in springtime, visiting cemeteries and decorating graves with flowers. Seeing this grassroots tradition take hold, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a nationwide day of remembrance he called “Decoration Day” in 1868. That year, memorial events were held at 183 cemeteries, and it expanded to 336 the following year.
After World War I, the day evolved to honor all Americans who had fallen in conflict and became even more widely established throughout the United States, gaining the modern name of “Memorial Day.” However, it was not until 1971 that Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that officially recognized it as a federal holiday and set its observance on the last Monday in May.
One of the ways SAME members have honored the memories of our fallen servicemembers is through the construction and maintenance of our national cemeteries. Through the contributions of their construction and engineering expertise, SAME members and Sustaining Companies have ensured that historical cemeteries across the nation are well-maintained and stay true to their solemn nature. Projects previously covered in TME range from the construction of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, to a 100-year master plan at Quantico National Cemetery, to condition assessments conducted in Baltimore, Chattanooga, and Marietta National Cemeteries.
Along with these professional projects, SAME members have contributed to preserving the memory and character of our national cemeteries through their volunteerism. In 2019, members from the Philadelphia Post were approached by the Washington Crossing National Cemetery, which was facing erosion challenges in their scattering garden and needed holes drilled for their Avenue of Flags. The Post assembled a volunteer committee that developed landscape plans to address the drainage issues and scheduled two work days with over 30 volunteers from Sustaining Member firms, students from the nearby Conwell Egan High School, and members from the local VFW Post. Local nurseries donated over 100 deer-resistant plants and shrubs to complete the garden. To complete the Avenue of Flags, TWS Environmental, a service-disabled veteran owned small business, donated project management, mark out, and labor, and partnered with Sunbelt Rentals, who donated the rental of a Bobcat auger, to sink 22 holes through the granite-filled soil.
At both the local and national level, SAME Posts and Sustaining Members are fulfilling Goal 5 of the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan to support veterans and servicemembers, including the preservation of their sacred resting places. This Memorial Day, SAME honors all fallen servicemembers and pays its respects to those who gave their lives for the country.
TME Looks Back at 100 Years of Military Engineering
Founded in 1920, the Society of American Military Engineers is celebrating 100 years of service to the nation in dedication to national security. TME Looks Back recounts the past century of military engineering history and celebrates SAME’s past, present, and future.
Want to explore more from The Military Engineer? Access to the online TME Archives covering over 100 years of military engineering and national security history is complimentary with your SAME membership. Click here to learn more about all the benefits of SAME membership. If you’re already a member, click here to explore the archives.
SAME’s official Centennial Anniversary Book, The Second Century Begins – Preparing for the Future by Building on the Past is available to order now. Filled with a combination of unique archival material from the past century of engineering history and an unprecedented look at tomorrow, this award-winning book is a perfect commemoration of SAME’s past, present, and future.