Last weekend was Memorial Day-which was originally called Decoration Day. Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, the leader of the Union soldier’s organization called the Grand …
Last weekend was Memorial Day-which was originally called Decoration Day. Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, the leader of the Union soldier’s organization called the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day as a day for Americans to spend time decorating the graves and memorial sites of the Civil War’s soldiers with flowers and wreaths to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. In the years following World War I (1914-1918) the name was changed to Memorial Day to be more inclusive and it became a day to honor all veterans who died in all wars and conflicts defending our country. As many of the readers of my column know, I am the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran. My dad was a medical doctor and when WWII started, he was not drafted so he went and enlisted in the US Navy. My mother, a City of Boston Public School teacher, was left with three small children at home. The ways of our culture in our country was different then and although I had not been born yet, it was very clear that all Americans pulled together as one and looked out for each other which certainly made it easier for my mother to keep our family together and functioning. My father was stationed on a naval base in the Philippines and came back disabled. He died five days before my 11th birthday from his injuries. For me Memorial Day is a lot more than the first holiday of summer and WW2 changed my family’s history and pathway forever.
I had been invited by Andrew Valenti of Eldred an Air Force veteran and a member of the American Legion Post 1363 to be at the St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Eldred early on a Saturday morning and the members of the Post, and their family members and Boy Scout Troop 102 as they installed new American flags and white crosses on the graves of over five hundred veterans that are buried in the Highland and Lumberland cemeteries-several dating back to the Civil War. George Haas, the new Post Commander told me he makes the crosses in his woodshop at his house and this year he made one hundred and forty of them. George told me that he has been making crosses for about twenty-five years and has probably made about a thousand. I spoke with Pete Barnes, the former Post Commander who told me he was placing crosses on the graves of his friends who had passed away and who he still misses. Family members of the veterans were there with buckets of white paint sprucing up the crosses that did not need to be replaced. The Boy Scouts were learning about the firsthand experience of service to the community and about history and the wars from the veterans they were helping and the relevance of remembering our veterans. I went across to the old cemetery and saw veteran Jack Scully and Boy Scout Declan Brady place a flag on the Civil war graves of two Union army veterans from the New York State Volunteers Brigade -brothers Atwell Leavenworth who died in 1864 at twenty years and Hezekiah Leavenworth in 1864 who died at eighteen years old from the wounds he received at Gettysburg. Within that day that the veterans of the American Legion Post 1363 visited a total of eight cemeteries and replaced ninety crosses of remembrance. By the time the sun set on the day the members of the American Legion had visited eight cemeteries and erect over ninety crosses on the graves of our local veterans. I am so grateful to the members of the American Legion Post 1363 for caring for all veterans and showing their honor and respect for the legacy of gratitude we owe to all of our American veterans. God bless them all and God bless my dad for his faithful service to our country.
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