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Marine recalls somber meaning of Memorial Day

May 30, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

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HALFWAY -- Maj. Michael Bowers joined the Marines because of his late uncle, Kenneth "Jackie" Deavers, who was in the Marine Corps Special Forces and died, at age 19, in 1968 in the Vietnam War.

"I think his image, his story, really appealed to me," Bowers said after Sunday's Memorial Day ceremony at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park in Halfway. Bowers was the guest speaker at the ceremony, which was organized by the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County.

The ceremony ended with a rifle salute by AMVETS Post 10 in Hagerstown and the playing of taps.

Bowers' mother, Carolyn Elgin of Franklin County, Pa., said it's still difficult to listen to taps.

"I can still remember them presenting the flag to my mother," Elgin said of her brother's service. Deavers was buried in Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.

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A North Hagerstown High graduate, Bowers said he enlisted before he finished college, joining the reserves while at Bridgewater College in Virginia.

He now commutes from Hagerstown to Washington, D.C., where he is chief of plans for a U.S. Northern Command Joint Task Force. The task force supports emergency preparedness in the D.C. region, Bowers said.

Bowers has had multiple deployments to Iraq in recent years.

During Sunday's service, he noted that he missed his friends, then took a moment to compose himself before talking about the history of Memorial Day.

The day, to honor fallen comrades, was originally set to be May 30, but was later changed to be on the last Monday of May, he said. This created a three-day weekend for federal employees, he said.

But by changing the holiday to a Monday, many people have forgotten the meaning of the day, he said.

The holiday has become about traveling, picnics, parties and sales, Bowers said. People forget about Memorial Day ceremonies and forget to decorate the graves of those who sacrificed their lives so others could have the freedom to travel, party, have picnics and go to sales, he said.

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