The American Legion 500 Festival Memorial Service has united the community in downtown Indianapolis for decades. Amidst the racing festivities, it provides a moment for collective reflection on a significant holiday – Memorial Day. It is a weekend to remember the sacrifices made by the brave servicemen and women who perished while serving in the armed forces.
A wreath-laying ceremony, dedicated to the memory of all Hoosiers who sacrificed their lives in defense of the nation in all wars and conflicts, will take place. The names of those Indiana service members who have fallen in the theatre of war within the past year will be read aloud and the bell of the USS Indianapolis CA-35 will toll in their honor.
A Military Funeral Procession, also known as a Cortege, will be presented by the Indiana National Guard Headquarters Ceremonial Unit. The Cortege is comprised of service members who accompany the remains of the deceased to the gravesite. Elements of a Cortege are the Escort Commander, Honor Platoons representing all services, Drummers, an Honor Guard, the horse-drawn Caisson which transports the fallen hero’s remains, eight Casket Bearers, and the Caparisoned Horse. A riderless horse, also called a Caparisoned Horse, follows the Caisson. The horse is adorned with a saddle, a pair of Cavalry boots reversed in the stirrups, and an Army Saber attached to the right side of the saddle. This symbolizes the fact that the deceased had fallen as a warrior and will not ride again.