BUCKHANNON – Memorial Day this year will look different than in years past – but the significance is still the same.
The day was initially known as Decoration Day and it originated after the American Civil War in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all veterans, Memorial Day is a sacred day of commemoration set aside to honor all fallen U.S. service members.
Memorial Day was named an official federal holiday in 1971 when it was created by an act of Congress.
People celebrate Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries, having family gatherings and barbecues and celebrating with parades. According to airforcetimes.com, all Americans are encouraged to pause for a moment of silence on Monday, Memorial Day, at 3 p.m. to reflect on the sacrifice of service members who gave their lives for this country.
Although limitations required by social distancing would make a parade in Upshur County difficult, folks still are working to make the Memorial Day holiday one where service members will be honored. Volunteers from Create Buckhannon, the City of Buckhannon, the Frank B. Bartlett American Legion Post #7 and the VFW Post #3663 worked this week to put up the Walk of Valor banners at Jawbone Park.
On Saturday, May 23, 12 new banners were added to honor military family members and loved ones.
On Monday, May 25, a Memorial Day Veterans Program will take place at Heavner Cemetery in the Veterans Chapel, which is located right off of the Hall Road. Guests are asked to follow the social distancing guidelines during the program which will begin 1 p.m. The event will be led by Commander Larry Brown and the Upshur County Honor Guard, the VFW Post #3663 and Frank B. Bartlett American Legion Post #7.
Veterans, family members and residents are welcome to attend, however, everyone is reminded to maintain a distance of six feet from others and attendees are encouraged to consider using face masks or face coverings.
Mary Albaugh, American Legion Post Adjutant and past Post Commander, said the Monday event will include speakers, remarks from Buckhannon Mayor David McCauley, a bugler and a 21-gun salute.
“The ceremony will be short and sweet, but I think it is very important,” Albaugh said. “Jawbone Park is beautiful, and I hope folks will come out with their families to see the Walk of Valor banners and enjoy the beauty of the park.”
Albaugh said the Honor Guard has been out placing flags on the graves of veterans they know.
“The Memorial Day Service at Mt. Union was canceled,” she said. “So, we wanted to spread the word about that.”
Albaugh offered some suggestions for folks who cannot make the program or who cannot leave their homes during this time due to COVID-19.
“I would suggest if folks can drive and have young children, taking the children on a drive through Jawbone Park in Buckhannon and see the flags. Some people will be recognized – it could be their grandpa, aunt or uncle – and explain what they did to assure we have the freedoms we enjoy,” Albaugh said. “Or have the kids sit down and write a note thanking folks who served in the armed services and take them to the Senior Center or other agencies that help folks in the community. If kids want to write a letter to a Veteran thanking them, that would be great. If people need a name or address, they can contact me, and I will supply the information.”
She also suggested packing a lunch, finding a pretty place to go with family and having a picnic to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday.
“Go somewhere different and share time with family while telling family history of who served,” she said. “Look up places on the internet and learn the story about them and go visit them.”
The West Virginia National Cemetery is close by and offers an excellent location to see veterans who gave their all for our freedoms. It is located at 42 Veterans Memorial Lane in Grafton and has a little more than 3 acres. The cemetery is the burial site of Thornsbury Bailey Brown, believed to have been the first Union casualty of the Civil War.
According to Wikipedia, Grafton holds the longest ongoing annual Memorial Day celebration in the country and first decorated the graves of its soldiers beginning in 1867.
So, take time to honor those fallen soldiers who fought for the freedoms we enjoy, teach the younger generation why it is important to honor others on Memorial Day and enjoy the holiday with close relatives.