Mission: Memorial Day

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Mission: Memorial Day
Town and Village Turn Out to Honor Fallen Soldiers
Story and Photo By John Thomas
Staff Writer


   Monday, May 29th is Memorial Day. A day that for some of us is a day off, a day of no school, a family outing, a garage sale, or a mattress sale. But, really, it is a day of mourning. A day of acknowledging the loss of our loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Read down the list of names on the memorial in front of Town and Village Hall, and you will find names familiar to most of us: Egbert Barnhard, William Burton, Douglas Dineen, Alton Eastman, Irvin Ebert, Danial Lowry, Joseph O’Connor, Robert Quinn, and Henry Smith. These are the sons of Ellicottville who perished in World Wars I and II. The monument was erected in 1950, and more young men and women from the Town and Village may have died in conflicts since then, but their names are not on the plaque.

   Whether or not those names are set in stone, on the 29th, the community will pause to remember that those few, who gave their lives in war, have done so for us, the many, who enjoy the fruits of freedom. At 10:45am the Honor Guard will parade the flag down Washington Street. It will be followed by fire trucks and boy scouts. Immediately after, there will be a ceremony in front of Town and Village Hall. Mayor John Burrell will make a speech, and the Honor Guard will fire a 21-Gun Salute. The ECS band will play patriotic tunes. Taps will be played and prayers offered. Dale Dunkleman, who is organizing the event, says simply “Everybody is welcome.” Turning out for the parade is more than just a fun outing, it is a display of patriotism and community. It is an acknowledgment that we will not forget the sacrifice made by others.

   Memorial Day started as Decoration Day, as a way of honoring the horrific number of casualties from the Civil War, some 600,000. On June 3rd, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia was the first community to decorate a soldier’s grave. The practice spread, mostly in the South at first, but then to the North. The 21-Gun Salute originated in the late Middle Ages as a practice of placing oneself in an unarmed position in front of those being honored. It could be lowering the tip of a sword, presenting arms, discharging cannon, lowering sails, or laying on oars. The Navy took the practice a bit further by forcing a vanquished enemy to discharge cannon harmlessly into the ocean until their ammunition was used up. Secretary of the Navy Samuel Pepys formalized the ceremony for land by designating an odd number of rounds be fired. As the relative importance of the honored increases, the number of rounds fired also increase, with 21 being the highest honor.

   We should always remember; Memorial Day is not about mattress and car sales. To recognize this is the duty of all Americans. President Lincoln summed it up best in the Gettysburg Address, at a memorial ceremony at the battlefield in Gettysburg, November 19, 1861: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”

The 21-Gun Salute at last year’s Memorial Day Ceremony.