VFW plans memorial services for Monday

Craig resident and Korean War veteran Jim Meineke said he believes honoring those who served and died for the United States is paying tribute to those still living.

That's why he joins members of his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post each time there is a chance to honor fallen soldiers.

And Memorial Day brings several opportunities.

At 11 a.m., veterans and family members of those buried in the military section of the Craig Cemetery will gather for a service that will include a reading of the names of those buried, raising of the flags, Taps and a 21-gun salute.

"Memorial Day is to honor those who have served our country who have passed on and those who continue to serve," Meineke said.

Following the service in Craig, members of the VFW will travel to Lay to conduct a graveside service for Civil War soldier Andrew J. Williams.

"It seems nobody ever gave him a military service or headstone, so we got him one," Meineke said.

Williams fought from 1861-1865.

"My father told me years and years ago about this grave, but I didn't know it was a veteran's," Meineke said.

The VFW Post has had several occasions to present dead soldiers with military headstones. This will be the third Meineke has participated in.

"We get their military records and read them out loud before we do Taps," he said. "We make it an official burial. It's pretty interesting."

They will perform the same service this fall for a soldier buried in Lily Park.

The VFW also will raise the flag at 10 a.m. Monday for the opening ceremony for Grand Olde West Days.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with more than two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There also is evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

While President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.

It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead.

In 1915, poet Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

(The source for the historical portion of this story came from usmemorialday.org)

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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