Mr. Dave Walkup, High School Principal, Clarke Community Schools
Memorial Day observed May 29, 2006 11:00 a.m.


Commander (Richard) Gunderson, Mayor (Fred) Diehl, Rev. Hugh Stone, Veterans and Americans:

When I was asked to give the keynote address today, I was shocked and humbled. What could I say that has not been said about those who have given their lives in the service of our country? I plan to share with you my experiences, a little history, and finally a story about why this day is an important one for all of us as Americans.

I was born and raised in Glidden, Iowa, a small town in Carroll County, home of Merle Hay. Some of you may think of the mall or the road in Des Moines when his name is mentioned. However, in Glidden, Merle Hay is recognized as the first Iowan killed in combat in World War I. In remembrance, there would annually be a parade about 11:00 a.m. every Memorial day, that went right on Highway 30, past the monument that stands in front of the cemetery. The monument is a replica of Uncle Sam carrying a dead soldier across the Atlantic Ocean back home to Glidden, Iowa. I remember that monument, the speeches and the salutes of so many of those Memorial Days as a youth, a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, and member of the band. Memorial Day was a day that I remember as a day to acknowledge the number of soldiers who had given the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedoms as Americans. Memorial Day has always been a very respectful day in my life.

As a social studies teacher, I can remember talking about Memorial Day. This was originally called Decoration Day. There are many stories of its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War, A hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping," by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication, "To the Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead."

While Waterloo, New York, was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it is difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and cities planned a spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860s, tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, and each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in General Logan giving his official proclamation. General Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, officially proclaimed Memorial Day on May 5, 1868. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890, it was recognized by all the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until World War I. The holiday was changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May.

Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it's about coming together to honor those who gave their all. A note I would share with you today is that we as Americans don't always get it right the first time, but always want to be the first, or the birthplace of the sole originater of something as powerful as Memorial Day. We have grown as a country. Today when our troops come back, it is with respect. I think our country grew from the political differences of the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. We as Americans today honor our dead and respect our returning soldiers. We have even found out that this week John Pence was properly identified among 1,177 crewmen aboard the USS Arizona. This almost 65 years after being the first Clarke County member of the Armed Service who died in World War IL

Today five year old Hunter Youngblood doesn't understand why people are sometimes mean to our flag, to our country, or to each other. Hunter's father died in Iraq last July. Every night Hunter kisses the flag that was given to his family. For him, the flag is a symbol of his dad.

Today we remember the dead who preserved our freedom. From the rebels of the Revolutionary War, the brothers who fought against each other in the Civil War. We remember the lives lost in the World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We give one day each year to remember their sacrifice so that we can live in the greatest country in the world. I pray for the past but also for the future. I pray that we will have no more wars, no more children who have to kiss a flag each night instead of their mother or father. That is the vision of this American. Thank you all for your respect to our fallen soldiers. Thank you all for being Americans. God Bless America!

The program folder for the service had this picture of a fallen returning veteran with  these words:

Again our nation has assembled to honor its heroic dead. In their valiant deeds, their bodies sleep in peace, their souls go marching on. Because of them our lives are free and our nation lives. When peril threatened and their country called, they left their paths of peace to spring to arms — loved ones left behind, they fought for us, for us they fell.




Return to main page for Veterans from Hopeville and Murray by Fern Underwood

Last Revised April 4, 2015