HANCOCK COUNTY — Memorial Day is a national holiday created to honor the country’s war dead, and organizers of two local events are hoping to rekindle appreciation, remembrance and patriotism with ceremonies on Monday.
VFW posts, American Legion posts and their respective auxiliaries will begin their Memorial Day events at 11 a.m. in Park Cemetery in Greenfield, with speakers, laying of wreaths and more. At the same time at Gravel Lawn Cemetery in Fortville, veterans will lead a short ceremony as well.
A group from the Fortville VFW will place flags this morning at Gravel Lawn. At the event, a veteran will read Gen. John A. Logan’s General Order No. 11, which designated Memorial Day as a time for honoring departed war veterans.
“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated 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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet and churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit,” the order reads.
Rick Walker, who helped establish the memorial at Veterans Park in downtown Greenfield, said he hopes people will come to the ceremony to remember departed veterans.
“I realized we’re kind of losing track of what Memorial Day is about,” Walker said. “On Memorial Day, we’re remembering those who lost their lives in the defense of this country.”
At Park Cemetery, visitors will be able to appreciate the spirit of the holiday along the Avenue of Flags, which has more than 700 American flags on the cemetery’s landscape. The flags were installed last week. Each flag represents a veteran who defended freedom and some who paid the ultimate price.
“Those aren’t just names, they’re not just letters written down. They’re actually guys we went to school with. They were people in our community,” Walker said. “They were people that probably didn’t set out to die for their country, but they had that quiet courage to put on a uniform. They were living people that meant something to us. We need to remember them on Memorial Day.”
Eric Billman of the Fortville VFW post feels the same way. The day, he said, is an occasion to reflect on what it means to be an American.
“We were all proud to be Americans, and there was that patriotic feeling. That patriotism kind of boiled up in you. With Memorial Day, there is a patriotism for what we did and for those family members and friends who have also served and are no longer with us,” Billman said.
The short service at Gravel Lawn Cemetery north of Fortville will be highlighted by a reading of “In Flanders Fields,” a poem written during World War I.
“This day is not about the veterans who are living,” Billman said. “We pay homage to those who have gone before us. It’s remembering those that have passed and especially those that paid the ultimate price who give their life in combat in service for their country. We don’t want people to forget.”