By Linda Lockhart, Beacon staff
Originally called Decoration Day, the day now observed as Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by Gen. John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The holiday was first observed nationally on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Logan was from Murphysboro, Ill.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. It is also, however, a time to remember those who have served in the nation’s armed forces.This weekend, parades and military services honor veterans. But many people prefer to enjoy the three-day weekend with backyard barbecues and the seasonal opening of community swimming pools, or to just take things easy.
Through the Public Insight Network, the Beacon asked readers to share what Memorial Day means to them. While picnics and baseball are on the agendas of most, we found that many also still use the occasion to remember — and thank — military veterans. The following remarks are from written responses and telephone interviews. They have been edited for length and clarity.
Michaela Turner, 56, Richmond Heights
“I am a military mom. My son is in the Navy stationed in Norfolk, Va. Right now he is deployed at sea.
“Memorial Day is the day for remembering the sacrifices that men and women in the armed forces have made (so) that we may live in liberty and safety.
“Our family always displays the flag” for Memorial Day.
Scott Rhoades, 38, St. Charles
Rhoades served in the U.S. Air Force from 1992-96, achieving the rank of senior airman. He served as part of a war readiness materiel squad and had tours in Germany and Bahrain.
“As a veteran myself, I always make sure and call my father and thank him for his service. I also thank all veterans I come into contact with. Personally I will be going downtown to a Cardinals game.
Jack Hickman, 62, Fairview Heights
“Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day — they’re all simply vehicles for profits. How much merchandise and candy can be moved under the guise of ‘honoring’ someone?
“As a veteran, I’m certainly not ‘honored’ by incessant advertising, promotions and sales, self-serving political rhetoric.”
Bill Stine, 70, Jefferson City
“[It] has always been important to my family to honor those who served our country, on Memorial Day. The service
that the men and women in the armed forces contribute to our country is invaluable and they deserve our respect and praise, all past and present service members.”
Stine is a retired major of the U.S. Air Force. While active from 1967 to 1987, he was stationed in Los Angeles; at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Hill AFB in Utah; and Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts.
This Memorial Day weekend, Stine said, he plans to visit the grave of his great-grand uncle, Fredrick Buehrle. As a private, Buehrle was wounded in 1861 at the Civil War Battle of Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, Mo., Stine said. Buehrle survived the battle and lived a long life, Stine said. He died in 1915, succumbing to sickness after getting wet while marching in a Civil War veterans’ parade, Stine said.
“When he died, he had one of the largest military funerals in [Jefferson City’s] history,” Stine said.
Stine said he
is also planning to visit the memorial marker of Laughton Smith, a friend from when the two were students at Jefferson City Senior High School. Smith was a naval officer aboard the USS Scorpion, a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine lost in 1968. Ninety-nine crew members, including Smith, died when the sub went down over Memorial Day weekend in 1968. “It’s sitting down there off the Azores,” Stine said, of the sub.
This year, on Memorial Day, “our Monticello Men’s Chorus is doing a concert, which will include the Navy Hymn, sung in his memory,” Stine said.
“Memorial Day means a lot more to me than it did in the past,” Stine wrote in his PIN response. “We sing usually on Memorial Day in the state Capitol or a nearby church. I also make a point of visiting our local national cemetery for the program there. It includes … a wreath laying at the burial site of those who died in the Civil War massacre in Centralia, Mo.”
According to historic accounts, 24 unarmed Union soldiers were captured and executed in Centralia on Sept. 27, 1864, by pro-Confederate guerrillas. Future outlaw Jesse James was said to be among the rebel group.