Memorial Day – the real reason for holiday

By W. WINSTON SKINNER
winston@newnan.com
Gary Thompson wants people to remember the reason – the real reason – for Memorial Day.
Thompson, who served in Vietnam, is one of many veterans across the country to express concern about the conflation of Memorial Day with other patriotic holidays. Thompson shared his thoughts recently through an event related by a comrade from Vietnam.
Thompson and his friend were on a patrol when an explosion injured his friend. The man lost a limb and his eyesight. One Sunday afternoon on a recent Memorial Day weekend, someone stopped at the friend’s house to relate the events of that Sunday at church where members had been encouraged to thank a veteran for what he did.
The blind veteran listened and then said simply, “But I’m still here.”
In many instances, Memorial Day and Veterans Day have been virtually conflated. When it comes to who is being honored on Memorial Day, “most everybody thinks it’s veterans or the guys who served in the war,” Thompson said. Sometimes the day is used to remember all deceased veterans – those who died years later as well as those killed in action. Thompson said the date is also sometimes a vehicle to pay tribute to firefighters, police officers and other public servants.
Thompson, whose boyish looks have made some question his being old enough to have served in Vietnam, was quiet for a moment. “It’s about those guys we put in body bags and sent back home,” he said.
Thompson was in Vietnam from November 1969 through July 1970. He was wounded and still deals with physical issues from his military days.
Because of his concern about the loss of meaning for Memorial Day, this time of year he passes out copies of a 2002 statement by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “Meaning of Memorial Day Distorted.” He distributes the statement in clear plastic sleeves.
It reads: “Memorial Day is supposed to be a day to remember and honor the nation’s war dead. Lately, however, it has become a convenient day also to remember most everyone else. The media has fostered this trend by calling on people to remember their loved ones at a time set aside for those who died serving their country.
“Memorial Day must serve as a reminder only for our war dead. With so many groups being commemorated on Memorial Day, it becomes easy to lose sight of the real sacrifices made in war.”
Several events are planned this weekend in Coweta County to commemorate Memorial Day. The annual Buddy Poppy Drive by the VFW Post 2667 is raising funds for needy veterans and their families.
Volunteers gathered Saturday to place American flags on graves at several cemeteries. The Moreland Community Historical Society is holding a reception for all veterans to day at 2 p.m. at the Moreland Mill.
VFW Post 2667 will hold ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Plaza on Jackson Street at Temple Avenue in Newnan at 11 a.m. Monday. Fallen heroes from Korea, Vietnam and the current international military conflicts will be remembered.
The ceremony will be titled “Five Gold Stars” and will honor five additional names recently placed on the Veterans Plaza honor rolls.
The Gold Star, often seen on window banners, symbolizes the loss of a family member killed in action.
During the preparations for last year’s visit to Coweta of the half-sized replica of the Vietnam Memorial - The Wall That Heals, it was discovered that two from Coweta County killed in action during Vietnam were overlooked on the original honor roll. They are John Dozier and Daniel Post, both of whom have surviving family members in the area.
In the past two years, three Cowetans have died serving in combat. Chad D. Coleman, of Moreland, died in 2010 while assigned to Afghanistan. Adrian G. Mills, a graduate of Northgate High School, died in 2011, in Kirkuk, Iraq. Nicholas S. Whitlock, graduate of Newnan High School and Mercer University, died in Djibouti, Africa, while piloting a special operations aircraft.
Surviving family members of all five fallen warriors have been invited to attend and be a part of the program Monday in Newnan. A special invitation has been issued for any Gold Star families to attend.
The local VFW has purchased commemorative bricks for the five men being honored. As a gesture of remembrance, two additional bricks are being purchased for the memorial plaza. One honors Korean War casualty Richard E. Clapp, a native of Seattle, whose remains were recently identified after 62 years. His sister resides in Senoia. Michael C. Braden, whose family recently moved to Newnan, and who recently died in Afghanistan, will also be honored with a commemorative brick.
After the Newnan ceremonies, the Coweta Veterans Club will hold a dinner for the public. Food will be served from 12:30-2 p.m.
The Senoia Downtown Development Authority is sponsoring daylong event on Monday. Vendors will be selling antiques and handmade arts and crafts in the downtown area starting at 10 a.m.
The 116th Army Band, Civil and Revolutionary War re-enactors, veterans, civic groups, businesses, Scouts and Shriners are scheduled to be in Senoia’s annual Memorial Day parade which will begin at 2 p.m.
World War II veterans will serve as the grand marshals.
Speaker for the Memorial Day program in Senoia will be Col. Brent Bracewell, director of the Joint Staff, Georgia National Guard. A fireworks show – sponsored by the City of Senoia – will begin at dark at Marimac Lakes Park on Pylant Street.


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