American Legion Post 100 in Union hosted a Memorial Day commemoration at the Monroe County Courthouse at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 30. Approximately 40 community members gathered around the veteran’s memorial for the event that paid homage to our country’s war dead on a hot, sunny day.
After an invocation offered by Steve Ellison from Chapter 1108 of the Vietnam Veterans of America the assembled group sang the National Anthem as the James Monroe High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) color guard proudly presented the colors. Red, Scott Womack’s horse, represented the fallen in the traditional military manner as a riderless horse with reversed boots in the stirrups.
Next, Tim Sluss, commander of American Legion Post 100 in Union, delivered some remarks and laid a wreath at the veteran’s memorial. In them he stated, “The service members we honor today came from all walks of life. Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. Ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the Nation’s call because they wanted to protect a Nation which has given them, and us, so much.”
Loyd Vest, commander of American Legion Rowe-Jones Post 145 in Peterstown, also delivered remarks and laid a wreath at the veteran’s memorial. In his remarks he recounted the stories of two Second World War service members who perished in that conflict: William “Punch” Jones and Claude L. Rowe. The Post is named for these two selfless citizens. Loyd’s remarks included this reflection: “The impact of this ultimate sacrifice ripples through our communities. A service member’s death touches more than just the lives of their loved ones and friends. When their stories are shared in our neighborhoods, our homes, our schools and our places of worship, these men and women become a part of the collective identity of our hometowns.”
Chris Johnson, representing Beirne Chapman Camp #148 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, presented a wreath and read the poem Bivouac of the Dead. The poem, written by Theodore O’Hara in 1850, was dedicated to soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War.
Scott Womack read the first official proclamation of Memorial Day by General John A. Logan on 30 May 1868, which called upon citizens to annually decorate the graves of those killed in action. It states in part, “Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
The custom began as early as 1865, when a group of ladies in Mississippi gathered to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate killed in action, and from there it quickly spread across the country.
After these remarks and readings, the names of 77 known Monroe County citizens killed in action were read, along with the year of their deaths. Following this somber reminder of the cost of our freedom, Chris Johnson played “Taps.”
American Legion Post 100 in Union would like to express its gratitude to the JROTC “Maverick Battalion,” to the other veterans groups present, and most especially to the dedicated group of citizens who came out to remember those who “…gave the last full measure of their devotion.” The American Legion is nonpartisan and open to veterans of any branch of service and era, including those currently serving. It supports veterans and their families, patriotism, and youth education. Come join us for next year’s remembrance