Good Monday Morning to you all! I hope you are having a good holiday weekend, and that you haven’t forgotten those who make our freedom possible. Memorial Day is much more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the year’s first sunburn, play ball or have a picnic. It’s a time to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for their county. All the images in this post are mine, taken over the last few years.
This eagle was taken last spring near the Mississippi River. The finished image is a composite of the eagle and a flag image from a few years ago.
Did you know that Memorial Day began as a result of the thousands who died in the Civil War? The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the country led to several spontaneous commemorations of the dead with the first being in Pennsylvania in 1864 following the Battle of Gettysburg.
It first became official on May 5, 1868, when Major General John A Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Orders No. 11, which set aside May 30, 1868 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The day was known as “Decoration Day”. The name “Memorial Day” goes back to 1882, however it was not until 1967 that federal law made Memorial Day the official name.
My county seat Veterans (VFW and American Legion) place flags in Central Park, with each flag in honor of a veteran. It is a wonderful sight. This is done for Memorial Day and for Veteran’s Day.
Volunteers arrive before sunrise on each of the three days of the holiday weekend to put the flags out, then return before sunset to remove them. Flags are placed completely around the square and on both sides of the four sidewalks leading to the bandstand in the center of the park.
The Iowa National Guard 34th Army Band was stationed for many years in Fairfield, and as a result, they often played for the program and ceremony at the cemetery. This ceremony was later moved to the Courthouse grounds where the Veteran’s Memorial was established. Unfortunately, I did not find the photo of said memorial, but it is very nice. There is a monument for each of the armed services and one for POWs, with the flag of each flying above the monument.
There is always a program in the park, with folks attending from around the county. They bring their lawn chairs, children in strollers, and those less mobile come with walkers or wheelchairs. There is music by the band and speakers for the brief program before everyone moves to the courthouse, with those who are able marching the two blocks to the memorial on the courthouse lawn.
The next image is one I like, though the band member’s face is nearly covered by his instrument. It shows the flags behind him and in front of him, as well as being reflected in the brass.
In addition to this Memorial Day ceremony, nearly all the small towns around the area also have ceremonies, usually done by the American Legions in those communities. They are quite moving, and I wish more people would think of attending at least one of the ceremonies on this special day.
Most veterans organizations around here also place small flags on the graves of veterans, making the cemetery an amazing sight. It is enough to cause one to get teary-eyed just thinking of all those who gave their lives in battle, as well as those who were fortunate enough to return home. Then, one’s thoughts go to those who may have come home, but suffered, or still suffer, in various ways from their experience.
We would do well to not just remember these men and women, but to do what we can to preserve the memories of what they have done to ensure our freedoms. Most of us do not even think about it, much less appreciate what has gone before.
I have shared just a small portion of why I like Iowa, and my county in particular, although I am certain these same events take place all over the state. This is small town living at its best.
If you have read this far, thank you. Now, go and thank a veteran for his or her service. THEN you can get that sunburn, or have that picnic. But if you live in the Central United States you probably won’t get that sunburn. More rain is on the way here.
God Bless veterans all, and God Bless America. Our Freedoms are not FREE!
“All gave some, Some gave all.” Howard William Osterkamp (served in the US Army during the Korean War.)