City remembers those who fell

May 28, 2000|By TARA REILLY

About 55 veterans and community members gathered outside the Washington County Courthouse on a chilly, rainy Sunday afternoon to honor the nation's fallen soldiers in a wreath-laying ceremony.

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The Memorial Day celebration was sponsored by Morris Frock American Legion Post 42.

Amid a steady downpour, about 20 veterans walked somberly to the front of the courthouse war memorial, saluted the names listed and placed sodden red, white and blue wreaths around the monument.

Rev. Fred Eckhardt of Westminster told war stories about loyal soldiers to the crowd, who huddled in groups sharing umbrellas. One of the stories Eckhardt mentioned was of a soldier lying in a hospital bed with an arm missing.

"Somebody had told him that he lost an arm," Eckhardt said. "The man said, 'I didn't lose it, I gave it.'"


Eckhardt also reminded the crowd to take an active part in remembering those who fought for freedom and to help other countries find peace.

"War is hell," he said. "It's time to remember. We're not doing all that we should do. We hope and pray for lasting peace."

Beth Harris of Hagerstown didn't mind standing in the rain, saying it was "the right thing to do."

"Nobody else here cares that it's raining either," Harris said. "These people more than did their duty for us. It's our turn to honor them."

In another brief ceremony sponsored by Post 42, about 40 people lined the entrance road to Cedar Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, bowing their heads amid rows of American flags hovering above. The crowd then dispersed to the graves of beloved soldiers.

Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, shortly after a declaration by General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. It was originally called Decoration Day because honor was shown to the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves.

In 1966, the federal government named Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866, as an annual, communitywide event. By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day. After World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. In 1971 Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.

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