Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps members Steve Fierbaugh and Donnie Waybright lower the American flag to half mast at the Arbovale Cemetery Sunday as part of the annual Memorial Day Ceremony. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

The annual Memorial Day Service was held Sunday at Arbovale United Methodist Church.

Hosted by the Arbovale Cemetery Association, the event is a time to pay tribute to the servicemen-and-women who sacrificed for the safety, freedom and well-being of the country, and to remember those who passed away in the past year.

Guest speaker Delegate Bill Hartman said it is important to continue celebrations like this, especially in small communities.

“I think it makes Arbovale a much stronger place because of the fact that everybody cares about the community and their citizens,” he said. “It is an honor to be here to make special recognition of our citizens who have given the last full measure.”

Hartman recalled that Memorial Day began in 1886, as a way to honor the fallen soldiers who fought for freedom. Since that time, however, Memorial Day has become much more. It is a reminder that those we have lost are never forgotten and decorating grave sites is just one way to honor their memories.

Hartman shared remarks made by Senator Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, who wrote about Flags In day – the Thursday prior to Memorial Day – when servicemen-and-women place American flags on each grave at Arlington Cemetery.

In his remarks, Cotton said each service member was assigned a row, and they used their length of their feet to ensure the flags were placed in a straight line along the row. As he did his row, Cotton reflected that there were graves for soldiers of all ages, all religions and all races – and they all died for America.

Hartman said he shared this story because he felt it exemplified what Memorial Day symbolizes.

“This tradition goes on all over the country, and these kinds of traditions are what, I think, makes this country strong,” he said. “The people we honor today are the folks that gave us our liberty.”

Hartman added that he remembers his family’s own tradition on Memorial Day – a tradition that is still vivid in his mind.

“I remember as a young kid, I lived with my grandparents, and my grandmother always raised peonies,” he said. “She always had those, and we always took them to the cemetery to her parents on Memorial Day. We’d put water in a quart jar and cut those peonies, and we’d retrieve them after a week or ten days. That was part of the tradition when I was growing up.”

In closing, Hartman reiterated how important these events and traditions are for keeping Memorial Day relevant and honoring the memories of those we’ve lost.

“I think events like this are very important to keep Memorial Day alive,” he said. “I’m very pleased that you’re going to honor each of the citizens of Arbovale who has passed away since this time last year. I think that’s very important. I appreciate all the families that are here because they have loved ones whose names will be read in a few minutes. These kind of events define rural communities. I think it’s very, very important that we continue these traditions.”

After Hartman’s speech, Suzanne Stewart read the names of those interred at Arbovale Cemetery between May 25, 2018 and May 25, 2019. As the names were read, family members or friends placed flowers in arrangements, with the help of Mary Ralston and Barbara Crist.

The arrangements were then taken to the cemetery where the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps lowered the flag to half staff and presented a 21-gun salute.

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