Reflections on Memorial Day in Weaverville - TribPapers

Reflections on Memorial Day in Weaverville

General Gainey. Photo by Paul King.

Weaverville – It was standing room only in Weaverville’s Community Center at Dottie Sherill Knoll on Memorial Day 2024 as people turned out to honor the country’s war dead while servicing the nation.

Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, is a significant American holiday dedicated to honoring and remembering the men and women who have died while serving in the US military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

The tradition of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers dates back to the aftermath of the Civil War when communities across the country started holding springtime tributes. Over time, this practice expanded to include all military personnel who have sacrificed their lives in service to the nation. Today, Memorial Day ceremonies are held at cemeteries, monuments, and memorials across the United States, with many involving parades, speeches, and the playing of “Taps,” a bugle call played at military funerals and memorials.

Beyond its solemn purpose, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of summer in the United States, a time for family gatherings, barbecues, and outdoor activities. This juxtaposition of sad remembrance and joyous celebration is a reflection of the holiday’s dual role in American culture.

It serves as a poignant reminder of the cost of freedom and the importance of honoring those who have laid down their lives while also providing an opportunity for communities to come together in appreciation of the peace and liberties their sacrifices have secured. Many Americans observe the holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials, participating in local parades, and participating in various patriotic events like the one in Weaverville, ensuring that the legacy of those who have served is kept alive in the nation’s collective memory.

The event began with the Reuter Center Singers, who got things started with patriotic singing followed by the singing of the National Anthem. In the crowd, you could see heads covered by military berets and baseball caps featuring branches of the services or ships, along with military and patriotic t-shirts.

Rev. Mike Holder of the Pleasant Grove Union Church and Christ UMC then gave an invocation, followed by Weaverville Councilman Doug Jackson welcoming everyone to the Weaverville Patriotic Committee’s annual event. At this point, the Reuter Singers gave a heartwarming rendition of “The Mansions of the Lord,” a tribute to fallen soldiers written by Randall Wallace. “To fallen soldiers, let us sing where no rockets fly nor bullets wing our broken brothers. Let us bring to the mansions of the Lord,” opens the song’s first verse.

Next, Jackson introduced this year’s guest speaker, Lieutenant General Kathleen Gaines USA (Retired). Gaines “served in the military for 35 years and is a graduate of the Army Command and Army War College. Her final post was Deputy Commander, US Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Most recently, Lt. General Gaines was inducted into the Army Women’s Hall of Fame.”

Gaines complimented the Reuter Center Singers and gave the audience a chance to give them a round of applause. She then mentioned how many viewed Memorial Day as the start of summer, but it was much more than that. “Memorial Day is a day to remember those who perished giving their all for the nation they loved,” she said as she went into a review of the history of the holiday.

“Today, the combined number of our fallen is 1.5 million souls. Memorial Day says it is not a day to commemorate war but to recognize the sacrifice, patriotism, and selfless service,” she said. Gaines went on to say that the fallen and their families should be remembered and take care of those left behind. “We should be mindful that Memorial Day was established to recognize those 1.5 million souls and the increasing number of those who are now coming home who are wounded in mind, spirit, body, and emotions. So I urge you to dedicate yourself not only to honoring the memory of the sacrifices of the fallen but to honor the sacrifice and suffering of those who have come home with wounds some can not see.” She went on to tell those gathered what they could do to help and honor these sacrifices. After Gaines spoke, she received a standing ovation from those present.

Her address was followed by a rifle salute by the Weaverville Police Department via video, then “Taps” was played by the Weaverville Fire Department and “Amazing Grace” by Weaverville resident Howard Dusenbery. Rev. Holder then gave a benediction to close the event.