CHESTERVILLE — More than 150 turned out for the Memorial Day service here.
In tradition, the parade with members of Highland Junior ROTC, Highland Band, Honor & Color Guard, Buckeye Brigade 4-H club, Big Walnut Joint Fire District marched to the Maple Grove Cemetery.
Master of Ceremonies Tyler Shinaberry opened the service by sharing historical facts about Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day). This year marked the 150th anniversary of the first national celebration of the holiday which took place May 30, 1868, at the Arlington National Cemetery, where Confederate and Union soldiers were buried.
It was Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans group established after the Civil War comprised of former Union Army soldiers, who designated May 30 as a memorial day “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 churchyard in the land.”
Shinaberry encouraged attendees to make the day count in terms of carrying the memory of the fallen into future generations by “…sharing the importance and sanctity of this day as proposed by General Logan 150 years ago with our youth and continue to do so through parades, ceremonies, and fellowship each and every year, and throughout the year as a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice our fallen have given to their country, the encouragement of liberty, and protection of our God given freedoms.”
The Battlefield Cross (Soldier’s Cross) ceremony was conducted by military veterans from the Big Walnut Joint Fire District. The Battlefield Cross was traditionally used as a marker to identify the fallen before their removal from the battlefield.
The symbolic “cross” consists of an inverted rifle with bayonet to signal a time for prayer, a helmet and dog tags to signify the fallen soldier, their name never to be forgotten, and combat boots to represent the final march into their last battle.
The Highland High School Marching band played patriotic songs, including “Taps.” Members of the Highland JROTC read the roll call of Morrow County’s 83 fallen soldiers who served during World War I, World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Iraqi wars. The Color and Honor Guard conducted the memorial 21-gun salute.
It was an honor to have as this year’s guest speaker, Lt. Col. Steven P. Petrosino, USMC (RET). Lt. Col. Petrosino has a very impressive military background and post-military biography.
He called on the gathered crowd to remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for their country. He provided little-known details about men and women who served in the armed forces, in particular, the Vietnam War whose names are inscribed on The Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Lt. Col. Annie Ruth Graham served as a military nurse in both World War II and Korea before Vietnam and suffered a stroke in August 1968. James Anderson, Jr. was the first African-American U.S. Marine to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously after being killed in action during the Vietnam War when he rolled on top of a grenade to save his fellow Marines.
From the town of Beallsville, Ohio’s 475 residents, six men perished during the Vietnam conflict. It is believed this community suffered the highest toll of Vietnam war fatalities of any city in the nation on a per capita basis. Five soldiers were 16 years old and one was 15.
The benediction was given by Pastor Ryan Skelton, who called upon attendees to pause and reflect on the lives lost. The Memorial Day service concluded with Tyler Shinaberry sharing words of a Gold Star widow when he asked her how to best honor the loss of her husband and other fallen soldiers.
To paraphrase her reply: “Get to know him through us. Ask to hear his story, we love to tell it. Get to know his likes, his humor, his love. Enjoy life, have fun, he gave what he did so you could; it is the greatest way to honor his sacrifice.”