WATAUGA — In ceremonies throughout Watauga County, community members gathered in reflection on Memorial Day to remember service men and women who have died.
Speakers at each event gave a brief history about the observance of Memorial Day. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day from the tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreathes and flags after the Civil War. Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who died in service to the United States. In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May.
Throughout May, Edward Jones in Boone offered a community memorial garden on Blowing Rock Road where community members could place flags in the ground in memory of loves one who served.
“As a disabled veteran myself, I didn’t walk out the same way I came in,” said Jason Sirmon, the organizer of the event. “But I got a chance to walk out. Some of the folks did not get a chance to walk out. Everybody, in my opinion, that’s been deployed, there’s a certain part of them that don’t come home the same way.”
Sirmon said the certain part that isn’t the same can get put in a box and put to the side.
“This is just my way of allowing the community to have a couple of moments to bring back a memory of someone,” Sirmon said. “To me, Memorial Day is for that guy that didn’t make it home. That’s what it is because the guy that didn’t make it home is the reason you and I are able to do what we are doing today.”
In its sixth year of hosting the event, community members from all over went to Edward Jones to place flags in remembrance of someone.
“I placed that flag for my father,” said Dennis Decess. “He passed away seven years ago from leukemia. He was an (Army) veteran and I want him to know that I thank him for his service.”
Other events also commemorated Memorial Day in Watauga County. In Boone, the High Country Chapter MOAA (Military Officers Association of America) held a small event on May 31 at the Watauga County Veterans Memorial on King Street.
The event is usually held at the Boone Mall with hundreds of people gathered, but because of COVID-19 concerns the group held a smaller event this year.
Jim Fisher, the organizations chaplain, gave brief remarks before opening up a prayer. Before the prayer, Fisher mentioned Psalm 27:3-4, which says, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”
“That we may remember those who paid the ultimate price by giving their lives for their country,” Fisher prayed. “We acknowledge the debt that we owe the men and women of the United States military who have guarded, and those that continue to guard, this country with their lives.”
The High Country MOAA also featured the first live performance from the Watauga Community Band in over a year who performed the “Star Spangled Banner,” “Amazing Grace” and each military branch’s song.
In Blowing Rock, a small event was held at Memorial Park on Main Street on May 29 — hosted by the American Legion Post 256. The event featured a playing of the national anthem, an invocation, recognition of local military members, a telling of the history of Memorial Park and a featured speaker.
Albert Yount, the commander of the American Legion Post 256, oversaw the event and introduced speakers. The featured speaker of the event was Tony Zeiss, the president of Central Piedmont Community College. Zeiss started his speech by talking about the history of Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day is often defined as this: a federal holiday honoring the military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties while serving in the armed forces,” Zeiss said.
Ziess continued with the history of the holiday in hopes, he said, to remind people of how important it is.
Members of the legion read off names of the fallen that were from Blowing Rock also at the event.