LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — There are plenty of distractions during Memorial Day — the lake, the pool, the barbecue or the store sales. In fact, many people don’t view these as the distractions, but rather the product of Memorial Day, and perhaps rightfully so.
In the decades since its inception, the holiday has slowly morphed into “the unofficial start of summer,” and for many, it’s little more than a three-day weekend.
Led by the local American Legion Post 192, a large crowd turned out on the Lynchburg square on Monday for the community’s 24th Memorial Day service, serving as a reminder that the holiday is far from ordinary, especially for those who served.
Memorial Day — which was started on May 30, 1868, when Union General John A. Logan declared the day an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers — is now observed on the last Monday of May. It is an occasion to honor the men and women who died in all wars.
There are still parades, still fundraisers for veterans, and still plenty of activities across the state that help commemorate the holiday.
On Monday, Bill Thomas, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam and now serves as Commander, American Legion Post 192, welcomed guest speaker Mike Scott, a retired veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served in Iraq.
Scott, who now serves as the Middle Tennessee Director of Veterans Affairs, did not speak of the years he spent serving his country in Iraq.
Instead, with his voice occasionally cracking and often showing hints of emotion as he addressed the crowd gathered in the welcoming shade on the northwest side of the Moore County Courthouse, Scott spoke of the veterans he serves now.
He spoke of their sacrifices, and he spoke of the sacrifices families have made throughout history as they’ve lost loved ones in battle. He spoke of the necessity for remembrance of uniform, rather than the desire to take a day off or head to the beach.
Scott said that rather than accept thanks for the time he served in the military, he’d prefer to give thanks to all of those who never made it home alive. He flashed a grin as he described his experiences working with the veterans in Middle Tennessee.
Army veteran Phil Gatto, who served in Vietnam, gave Monday’s invocation, while rising Moore County High School sophomore Taylor Reynolds sang the National Anthem.
Ken Moore, a Navy vet who served in both Korea and Vietnam, read a special poem. Following Scott’s address, Jable Dean — one of the first five American soldiers to serve in Vietnam in the early ’50s — presented the wreath in front of the courthouse memorial.
Billy Glen Bobo, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, raised the flags and Moore County High School student Billy Powell played Taps before Gatto gave the closing prayer.
Thomas said he was pleased to see young people involved in the ceremony.
When the day of commemoration was in its infancy, children played a big role in the celebration. Following Gen. John A. Logan’s lead nearly 150 years ago, to honor what was then called Decoration Day in the wake of the Civil War, children gathered flowers to lay in burial fields. They marched and sang hymns and patriotic songs. It was a chance for all to stop and pay tribute to fallen heroes.
Twenty years later, the name was changed to Memorial Day.
On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971.
Summer doesn’t start until June 20. The veterans involved in Monday’s service stand as a reminder of that. They weren’t there to be honored. They were there to honor those who never made it home.
—ROBERT HOLMAN, Publisher (email@example.com)
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