Memorial Day weekend was rather subdued because of the coronavirus. Many planned events had to be cancelled. However, veterans, their friends and relatives still managed to honor our fallen service members.
VFW Post 10209 in Spring Hill held its Memorial Day ceremony at noon on May 25. Post veterans and members of the Auxiliary, along with friends, family and the general public gathered in front of the post on Edward R. Knoll Drive to hear a keynote speech by Wayne Tuttle, District 21 Commander-elect. Gaye Hieb, District Auxiliary Chaplain began the ceremony with an opening prayer and Norm Pickering, Post Commander, welcomed everyone to the event.
In his keynote address, Tuttle, a veteran of Desert Storm, talked about the history of Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day. There are a number of different versions on how Decoration Day began but most agree that the first celebration took place not too long after the Civil War ended. However, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day It was chosen because its community first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866. After that, the town hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. In 1972, the last Monday in May was designated as Memorial Day and declared a national holiday.
After Tuttle’s address, post quartermaster John Coleman and VFW Auxiliary president Nancy Sellers placed a wreath at the memorial in front of the building. Following the laying of the wreath, Paul Pires and Artie Davila lowered the American flag, which had been flying at half-staff, and then raised it to full staff while the Honor Guard presented arms and fired a salute. The ceremony ended with the playing of Taps and a Benediction by Chaplain Hieb.
The entire audience also read aloud the well-known poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae during the First World War. It is from the first line of this poem – “In Flanders fields the poppies blow” – that the tradition of wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day originates. For a moving rendition of the poem read by poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen go to the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKoJvHcMLfc
After the ceremony was officially over, Pickering talked about the confusion that some people have between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The former honors the men and women who lost their lives in service to our country. The latter honors all service members, both living and dead.
He stated, “When someone comes up to me and says ‘Happy Memorial Day’ I remind them that it’s really a sad occasion not a happy one. Most people thank me for that reminder.”
Pickering went on to say, “We should lift all of our comrades up with positive comments and take care of whatever their needs might be. We need to be always checking on our brothers and sisters and doing whatever we can for them.”
This is something, not only for military people to do, but for everyone, regardless of whether you have served or not. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are not just a time to take off work and have a barbecue. These are days that honor our military men and women and a reminder that we should remember their sacrifices every day of the year.
Veterans HEAT Factory (VHF) celebrated Memorial Day early with a “Drive-by” on Wednesday, May 21. The event was organized by Lucy Stasio, Director of First Responders for the organization. Along with Ms. Stasio, Gus Guadagnino, CEO of Veterans HEAT Factory; Diane Cooglin-Scott, Director of Behavioral Health; Bernadette Taggert, an intern with VHF; and Jamie Williams, a volunteer with the organization decorated their cars with flags.
The group then drove to the homes of some of Veterans HEAT Factory’s clients and to Lynn’s VA Foster Home where Ms. Stasio’s father, a World War II veteran, and several other veterans reside. They were greeted enthusiastically by everyone.
Ms. Stasio stated, “We really lifted their spirits and morale.”
It was a simple gesture, but in their small way, the group paid tribute to these heroes.
Even the coronavirus pandemic could not deter the residents of High Point Golf Community in Brooksville from honoring veterans on this Memorial Day. An abbreviated tribute was held at the High Point Veterans Memorial located at 12249 Clubhouse Drive.
From a small Veterans tribute display set up under the canopy in front of the community center, Ellen and Mary Ann Shulmier played patriotic music.
In keeping with social distancing guidelines, many residents in golf carts and vehicles slowly passed the memorial to pay their respects.
At 10 a.m. Navy nuclear submarine veteran Wayne Johnson and Vietnam veteran Raymond Thomas raised the American flag and then lowered it to half-staff. The ceremony concluded with a somber rendition of Taps.
With Memorial Day now several days behind us, we must look ahead to another important day to remember. On June 6, 1944 approximately 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. Roughly 4000 Allied soldiers lost their lives in this attack with thousands injured or missing. June 6, 1944 now known as D-Day, marked a successful beginning to the liberation of Western Europe from German control.