Memorial Day services were held throughout the county over the weekend, with parades and ceremonies in area villages honoring those who have fallen to protect the nation.
Memorial Day activities in Eaton were held on Monday, May 26, beginning with the annual parade and including the traditional stop at the bridge, along with a 21-gun salute, and ceremonial wreath tossing into Crystal Lake by the VFW Post 8066 Ladies Auxiliary.
Area Boy Scouts presented their flag folding ceremony at Mount Hill Cemetery. Keynote speaker for this year’s memorial in Eaton was Vietnam veteran Pat Taylor.
“This is a beautiful day and God’s given us a little breeze to even make it nicer,” Taylor spoke to those in attendance.
Taylor had veterans step forward, as well as parents, siblings, and spouses of current active duty military, to be recognized.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the people who have fought for your freedom. Thank you, gentlemen and ladies. I salute you,” Taylor said.
“I asked an 8th grader once if he knew who John Adams was. And the answer was ‘yeah, he’s the guy on the beer bottle,’ ” Taylor said.
“Well, we all know that’s not true. I think when I took history back on the (19)50s and 60s — I know you in the band think that’s the dark ages — and even those in the 20s and 30s — we learned history a little bit different. We learned that we had so many brave people who formed this county and were not only patriots, but at times pretty arrogant patriots.”
Taylor mentioned Nathan Hale, Col. William Prescott, Patrick Henry, John Paul Jones, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, Gen. Omar Bradley, Winston Churchill, along with presidents who have made some inspirational comments like Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Thomas Jefferson.
“Today, more than 2.4 million active military personnel, along with reserves, not only protect our shores, but are stationed in over 130 countries and in many of the world’s oceans,” Taylor said.
“Right or wrong, America has assumed the duty as the world’s police force. People love us for this role and there are many who hate us for what we do. Whether it’s taking down an oppressive dictator, guarding ships at sea in international waters, bringing supplies, water, heavy equipment to storm ravaged Third World countries, or spending millions of dollars and countless hours trying to find a lost aircraft.
“We literally protect the world and in some cases whether they like it or not. There is a tremendous cost for freedom.
“We are at war and we expect, when in the type of war we are waging against an invisible enemy who uses IEDs, car bombs and women and children as human bombs, we expect losses. That continues to make the price of freedom we all enjoy, rise to a level that is difficult for families to endure. Ask any of the Blue Star Mothers that have had to change their Blue Star to a Gold Star with a loss of a child.”
Taylor also recognized Eaton senior band members and thanked them for their participation in the event.
The history of Memorial Day
Though many people are quick to refer to Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer, the day is much more than that. Initially known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day to remember those military members who died in service of the country.
The origins of Memorial Day remain a topic of debate. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. However, the roots of Memorial Day likely run much deeper, as researchers at Duke University note that during the Civil War, organized women’s groups in the south had begun to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.
Memorial Day as we know it today can likely be traced to Charleston, S.C., where teachers, missionaries and some members of the press gathered on May 1, 1865 to honor fallen soldiers. During the Civil War, captured Union soldiers were held at the Charleston Race Course and hundreds died during captivity. Upon their deaths, soldiers were buried in unmarked graves. When the Civil War ended, the May Day gathering was organized as a memorial to all the men who had died during captivity. The burial ground was landscaped, and those freed as a result of the Civil War played an integral role in the event at the Charleston Race Course.
While the event in Charleston might have been the first Memorial Day-type celebration in the southern United States, General John A. Logan is often cited as inspiring similar events in the north. As commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization for men who served in the Civil War, General Logan issued a proclamation just five days after the Charleston event that called for Decoration Day to be observed annually across the country. Logan preferred the event not be held on the anniversary of any particular battle, and thus the day was observed for the first time on May 30. Celebrating the day in May also was significant to event organizers because May is a month when flowers are in bloom, making it easier for observers of the holiday to place flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.
In 1868, events were held at more than 180 cemeteries in 27 states, and those figures nearly doubled in 1869. By 1890, every northern state officially recognized Decoration Day as a state holiday. But southern states honored their dead on a different day until after World War I, when the holiday was changed to recognize Americans who died in any war and not just the Civil War. Nearly every state now celebrates Memorial Day, a name for the holiday first used in 1882, on the last Monday in May.