As hundreds of small American flags flap-ped in the light breeze Sunday, veterans, members of the community and the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps gathered at the Arbovale Cemetery for a Memorial Day service to remember the sacrifices of fallen soldiers.
Honor Corps Commander Rick Wooddell spoke about the sacrifices felt nationwide and honored on Memorial Day.
“From our founding revolution to today’s global war on terrorism, nearly one million men and women in the armed forces have sacrificed their lives while defending America in time of war,” Wooddell said. “From the white crosses at Normandy, France, to the markers in Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii, to the tombs in Arlington National Cemetery, they all have stories to tell.”
The first Memorial Day, known as Celebration Day, was in 1865, Wooddell said.
“It is believed to have been celebrated with a parade of freed slaves and Union soldiers marching through Charleston, South Carolina, in 1865,” he said. “Waterloo, New York, is considered the official birthplace of Memorial Day because after it was observed there on May 5 of 1866, General John Murray and General John Logan called on all communities to honor the war dead every year.”
Logan and the head of the Grand Army of the Republic issued a proclamation in 1868 declaring that Decoration Day be observed nationwide.
“The date chosen was May 30 specifically because it was not on the anniversary of a battle,” Wooddell said. “Still, some communities did not want to honor Decoration Day because of lingering resentments from the Civil War. The alternative name, Memorial Day, wasn’t commonly used until World War II and federal law recognized the holiday as Memorial Day in 1967.”
While Memorial Day has become more of an official kick-off for summer, Wooddell said it is important to remember why the holiday began.
“It is a day for us to remember the promise that President Lincoln made ‘to care for him who shall have born the battle and for his widow and his orphan,’” Wooddell said. “Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough. The widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children remember every day. The empty seat at the dinner table, the smaller gathering at Thanksgiving and the voice of a loved one heard only as a distant memory in one’s mind are constant reminders that they are gone.”
Quoting Father Dennis O’Brien, of the United State Marine Corps, Wooddell gave insight into who the champions of our freedoms are:
“‘It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of press,’” Wooddell said. “‘It is the soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who served beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag who allows the protester to burn the flag.’”
In closing, Wooddell said it is important to say thank you just as much as it is to remember the sacrifices of soldiers.
“Americans have always shown great pride in our nation’s fallen heroes and unwavering support for those America sends in harms way,” he said. “Today is another opportunity to give those thanks. We owe it to the heroes who died and the loved ones left behind to make sure that their sacrifices are remembered and that their service to this nation should always be honored.”
The Honor Corps raised the American flag to half mast and presented a 21 gun salute followed by “Taps,” played by corps member Barry Sharp. Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org