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A soldier salutes Memorial Day

Staff Report
Posted 5/28/22

U.S. Army Veteran Dave Rogers says Memorial Day is often a tough sell for him, especially when the word, “HAPPY,” gets attached to its promotion.

He explains how the observance of …

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A soldier salutes Memorial Day


U.S. Army Veteran Dave Rogers says Memorial Day is often a tough sell for him, especially when the word, “HAPPY,” gets attached to its promotion.

He explains how the observance of Memorial Day traces its roots to Decoration Day which was a tradition began when family members and the communities would tend and decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. That is still a tradition in many Bedford County communities.

Still, Rogers says for veterans, the observance of Memorial Day, which is Monday, is a little different.

“As a combat veteran, this is not so much a celebration as it is a reflection and solemn occasion to remember those that have given all of themselves to those rights and freedoms Americans hold so dear,” says Rogers.

Rogers is a fairly new resident to Shelbyville, having moved here from New York this year. He talks about how the Saturday before Memorial Day (or a day designated by local leaders,) is a time for veterans to gather to place flags on the graves of the fallen men and women who died protecting this country.

He was a part of a clean up day with other veterans at Veterans Plaza on the square on Wednesday. The work was being done out of service but also in preparation for the Memorial Day ceremony planned for 11 a.m. Monday on the public square.

The Army veteran says that Memorial Day is unlike Armed Forces Day, also recognized in May, which honors all those remaining in uniform.

As well, Veterans’ Day, observed on Nov. 11, is a holiday that honors those serving in the military throughout history.

“For those families that have lost someone or those battle buddies that lost a brother or sister of combat, it holds more of a meaning than a day off to BBQ and celebrate,” he explains about Memorial Day.

He adds how many people will say, ‘thank you for your service,’ or ‘We gather for this Memorial Day Celebration . . . .’ Veterans, on the other hand, will say, ‘you are welcome’ or ‘thank you’ in return, according to this soldier.

“Remember that this day [Memorial Day] is not about that veteran in front of you, but all of those that came before and were lost.”

The origin of Memorial Day has no real historic marker in time, says Rogers. Though there are those that mark such occasions all the way back to post Revolutionary War.

“In the 1880s, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), put out the first literature on the traditions of Memorial Day, which at the time, was celebrated on various days throughout the country. It was not until 1882, that it was first called Memorial Day.”

Rogers says after WWII, in most communities, Memorial Day became a more accepted phrase than that of Decoration Day.

Memorial Day would not become an official name by federal law until passed by Congress in 1967.

Rogers says over 50 years ago, Memorial Day was still celebrated on different days in May. In 1971, Memorial Day was designated as a holiday, through the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the last Monday in May. The tradition can be found in many cultures around the world and is heavily respected in Europe.

Rogers says communities still mass gather in areas that have graves honoring American veterans; he’s traveled the world, observing such observances during his 14-year military career. The veteran recalls one such grave site still remembered is Flanders Field and Memorial in Belgium.

“It is near this area that many believe that John McCrae got his inspiration for his famous poem, “In Flanders Field,” the veteran notes.

The first stanza of the poem states:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Rogers observes, “As Veterans Service Organizations (VSO), have dealt with a lot of loss over the years, in many cases dying from injuries and illnesses they have brought home from war, this has also marked a time where these organization have joined together in service to call out the names of those lost over the last year, as a way to honor those that have continued to fight the battles and service their communities after they returned home.”

He explains that it is customary to see coins on top of grave stones.

“A penny means you visited (this can be a friend, veteran, family member or just someone paying tribute to that veteran.)

The others are reserved for those veterans that have had a personal connection to that fallen veteran. A nickel means you and the deceased veteran trained at boot camp together.

A dime means you and the deceased veteran served together in some capacity.

A quarter is very significant because it means you were there when that veteran died.”

This powerful homage to those giving their lives for freedom can be traced from the Romans to Vietnam War soldiers.

“Due to political divide in the country, over the war, leaving a coin was seen as a way of letting a family know you visited their fallen soldier, avoiding any possible uncomfortable conversation about the war,” says Rogers.

At national cemeteries still today, graveside coins are gathered monthly to help with the cost of cemetery maintenance, the cost of military burials and to care for indigent soldiers.