BUCKHANNON – Memorial Day is for mourning U.S. military members killed in the line of duty, and the rain held off long enough for a small crowd gathered in Heavner Cemetery Monday afternoon to do just that.
Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner welcomed attendees to a Memorial Day Service jointly hosted by American Legion Post 7 and the VFW Post 3663. Skinner highlighted the often overlooked – but important – distinction between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
“On Veterans Day, we go downtown, we have a really nice parade, and we have a celebration and a large crowd at Jawbone Park,” Skinner said. “Everybody comes out to thank those who have served our country. With Memorial Day, it’s not really ‘Happy Memorial Day.’ It’s a day of remembrance; it’s a day of somberness; it’s a day that we remember all of those who have fought to protect this country who gave their entire lives to do so.”
Skinner said as Appalachians, West Virginians should take pride in their history of never hesitating to step up to protect the U.S.’s national interests.
“You know, I’m always proud to be from Appalachia to be from West Virginia because West Virginia and Appalachia have fought all of our wars, more veterans, more deceased members of the Armed Forces reside and came from West Virginia than any other state. That’s really impressive. We’re a proud people. We’re a proud part of America.”
American Legion Post 7 Commander Ed Smith gave a brief history of Memorial Day, a federal holiday for honoring and mourning U.S. Armed Forces members who died while serving in the military.
“Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day in the United States, was the holiday on the last Monday in May, honoring those who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Smith said. “It originated during the Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. After World War I, as the day came to be in honor of those who had died in all wars, its name changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, and since 1971, Memorial Day has been celebrated on the last Monday of May.”
“We are gathered here on Memorial Day to honor the memory of our fallen warriors who have given everything for their country,” Smith continued. “We are also reminded on this day that brave men and women have always stepped forward to take the oath of allegiance as members of America’s Armed Forces willing to fight and, if necessary, die for the sake of freedom.”
Sen. Bill Hamilton of the 11th Senatorial District also delivered remarks.
“What is it that inspired and enabled ordinary citizens to rise to the challenge of battle, to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives and service to their country? What is it that motivated them to respond and contribute wherever and whenever called upon to do so?” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the answer lies in putting certain core values into practice, including loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. He asked people to keep the family members of lost loved ones in mind, too.
“As we honor our fallen heroes from the past or the present on this Memorial Day, we must not forget to honor the families, for behind each loss, there is a family,” he said. “They should know that their sacrifice and their unfathomable pain is shared by all of us. We must take upon ourselves the weight of grief if only to lessen the grief of the survivor.”
The Upshur County Honor Guard performed a 21-gun salute and asked for a moment of silence for the playing of “Taps.”