For the first time in 40 years, the Arbovale Cemetery Association will not hold its annual Memorial Day Service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has forced us all to keep our distance, our memories remain as close as ever – memories of the people we’ve lost along the way.
That is really what Memorial Day is about. Remembering the service men and women who laid down their lives for the safety and freedom of others. It has also become a time to remember family, friends and neighbors in the Arbovale community who passed away.
The ceremony may have been canceled, but our memories cannot be canceled.
Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps commander Rick Wooddell shared the address he intended to make during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Arbovale Cemetery.
Each year, Wooddell reads a message reflecting on the sacrifices made by service men and women – past and present. This year’s address was provided by the American Legion.
“Every year brings new challenges and opportunities for our nation to see our military capabilities. Each new crisis showcases our unsung heroes. During the 9/11 attacks, they were the first responders running into burning and crumbling buildings as others ran out. Now, during the Coronavirus pandemic, the most visible heroes are the healthcare professionals who are saving others and risking their own lives while doing so.
“These heroes have much in common with the people that we honor today – America’s fallen veterans. They are the men and women who sacrificed their own lives so others could live. They are both elite and ordinary. They are elite in the sense of character. Giving your life so others could live is the ultimate definition of selfless.
“They are ordinary in the fact that they represent the diverse fabric of our country. They are rich and poor, black and white, male and female. They come from every ethnicity and background. In short, they looked like each and every one of us.
“As we celebrate the selfless and untiring performances of the healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also highlights our military medics, doctors and nurses who sacrificed their lives while treating others on the battlefield.
“Approximately one million men and women of the U.S. military have lost their lives in defense of our nation since the founding of this great Republic. Not all have died from enemy fire. Some have died from diseases that have too often festered around war zones. Many times, deaths from disease and accidents outnumbered casualties caused by enemy weapons.
“During the Spanish American War, 60 soldiers of the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment volunteered to serve as nurses. Thirty-six of them would later die of yellow fever or malaria.
“A generation later, the flu would kill nearly 16,000 U.S. soldiers in France during World War I. Another 30,000 American service members died in stateside camps. These men and women could have isolated safely in their homes, but they knew they had an important job to do – a mission to accomplish. They were all on a mission to serve.
“Even when the enemy is an invisible virus or a microscopic germ, the sacrifices made are just as meaningful. The U.S. military has already lost service members to this COVID-19 pandemic.
“This Memorial Day, as we continue to honor those who fell for us in battle, let us also pause to remember those who have also sacrificed their lives while serving others. May God bless them and may God bless you for remembering them here today.”
Each year, the Arbovale Cemetery Association honors the memory of individuals from the community who passed away and were interred at the Arbovale Cemetery.
Interred from May 27, 2019 to May 24, 2020
– Ralph Romine, June 19, 2019
– Benjamin Poscover, June 20, 2019
– Hope Bryant, June 26, 2019
– Peggy Fanshaw, June 26, 2019
– Edward L. “Ebbie” Mullenax, July 1, 2019
– Craig R. Baldwin, July 19, 2019
– Thomas W. Bryant, July 20, 2019
– Cyndia Smith, July 20, 2019
– Bessie Thompson, July 27, 2019
– James Thompson, July 27, 2019
– Terry Dockery, August 23, 2019
– Kathy Kerr, August 24, 2019
– David Horne, August 25, 2019
– Carol Price, August 26, 2019
– Madeline Collins, September 1, 2019
– Danny Hedrick, September 1, 2019
– Robert Swiggert, September 3, 2019
– David Warner, September 4, 2019
– Elenor C. Wimer, September 11, 2019
– Anna Ervine, October 20, 2019
– Donna Byrd, October 21, 2019
– Sylvia Mullenax, November 14, 2019
– Dewey “Buck” Ervine, November 24, 2019
– Kenny Mallow, December 1, 2019
– Herald Lambert, December 7, 2019
– Gary Cassell, January 20, 2020
– Charlotte Carr, February 16, 2020
– Leabelle Gum, April 9, 2020
– Mary Louise Johnson, May 7, 2020
– Betty Lambert White, May 19, 2020
Although the ceremony at the Arbovale United Methodist Church has been canceled, the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps will hold tributes Sunday, May 24, at noon at the Mountain View Cemetery in Marlinton, and 2 p.m. at the Arbovale Cemetery.