Honor Those Who Served this Memorial Day!
Week #63: Learn about the origins of the Memorial Day Holiday and celebrate this year by attending the Greendale American Legion events. Post 416 Military Funeral Honors Team performs special ceremonies for veterans.
History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.
History and Folklore!
The American Civil War reached the depth and breadth of the United States and its people. Remembering those who had died in such great numbers started even before the war ended. Different sections of the country memorialized the dead in different ways and on different days. The first known observance was on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Freed slaves organized a May Day ceremony to honor the Union soldiers who died as prisoners of war in Charleston and were buried in unmarked graves. Years later it was recognized as the “First Decoration Day”.
“Decoration Day” as it was originally called commemorated Union soldiers who died in the American Civil War. The Southern States also started traditions to honor their fallen dead under various names. Gradually the observances became known as “Memorial Day” and were extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. “Memorial Day” was declared the official name by Federal Law in 1967. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill which moved four holidays to a specified Monday in order to create three-day weekends. This moved Memorial Day from the traditional May 30th date to the last Monday in May.
Records show that Greendale celebrated Memorial Day early after being open for residents in 1938. Several pictures exist that show the ceremony took place around the Flag Pole with the Hauser Sculpture. The American Legion started in Greendale in 1939 (see Week#69) and patriotism seemed to go hand in hand with the family and religious values of the community. For as many years as I can remember the American Legion has been sponsoring the Memorial Day ceremonies with a graveside tribute, a parade, and a patriotic program at Greendale High School. This year Memorial Day will be celebrated on Monday May 28th, and the events and times are:
- 8:00 AM Good Hope Cemetery Graveside Tribute
Legion Post 416 Firing Squad, Greenfield High School ROTC
- 8:30AM Memorial Day Parade
Parking Street to Northway to Southway to Greendale High School
- 9:30AM Memorial Day Patriotic Program
Greendale High School, Speakers, Patriotic Music, 21-gun Salute with Echo Taps and Flag Ceremony
I like to think that those of us working on these stories, and those of you reading them, are finding them more than just entertaining. We’re learning how our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came to Greendale, what it was like growing up, about the schools, the churches, the businesses, the government, the organizations they created and belonged to. We’re finding out what they valued and why Greendale is this special place that continues to attract new residents, along with the 3rd and 4th generations of families. I hope this is inspiring us to perpetuate those values, to support the schools, the churches, the businesses, the government and organizations to keep this community strong. This Memorial Day would be a great time to demonstrate a lesson learned. Consider attending one of the Memorial Day events in the Village or in any of the surrounding communities. Show that you remember and honor those who have served and sacrificed for our Country in time of war.
People, Past & Present!
Honoring and remembering all the men and women who have served the United States of America is something we all can do, and something members of the American Legion, Women’s Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Sons of American Legion do regularly. But there is a group of veterans that display their honor in a very unique and meaningful way. They are the 30 plus members of the American Legion Post 416 Military Funeral Honors Team. Far too many times every week this team of veterans known also as the Firing Squad performs at funerals of veterans. Called on very short notice they congregate at the American Legion Post, travel to the church or gravesite, and along with the representatives of the veterans’ service (Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines) participate in this ritual ceremony.
The Captain of the Firing Squad, Bill Mullaley, explained the four parts of the ceremony to me. First there is the reading of the Farewell Salute. These are the words read to the family and friends:
THIS HONOR GUARD IS HERE TO OFFER A FAREWELL SALUTE TO OUR DEPARTED COMRADE (NAME), WHO SERVED HIS COUNTRY WITH HONOR
PROUDLY WE REMEMBER OUR COMRADES SERVICE IN TIME OF WAR AND PEACE. BECAUSE OF (NAME), AND MEN LIKE HIM, OUR LIVES ARE FREE, BECAUSE OF THEM OUR NATION LIVES, BECAUSE OF THEM OUR WORLD IS BLESSED.
MAY THE CEREMONY TODAY DEEPEN OUR REVERENCE FOR OUR DEAD AND FOR OUR BELOVED COUNTRY.
Next, the Firing Squad fires three volleys with their rifles and a bugler plays taps. Third, there is a folding of the American Flag by the representatives of the veterans’ service and the presentation of the flag to the family. While the flag is being folded a member of the Rifle Squad explains what the components and colors of the flag represent. Finally, the Rifle Squad presents a small blue pouch with 7 cartridges and a poppy to the family. Bill explained that the members of the team train on each aspect of the ceremony to make sure they perform it precisely as prescribed. They take pride in their uniforms and how they conduct themselves on such solemn occasions.
Last Friday I attended one of these ceremonies performed by Post 416’s Firing Squad and representatives of the Army. The pageantry was spectacular in itself, but that only made the ceremony more impressive. I’ve been at funerals before where military honors were performed but this time I was able to understand it better. I could see how much the family appreciated the ceremony, and afterwards many of those in attendance personally thanked the Honors Team members.
I asked Bill if it wasn’t difficult going to all these funerals. At first he said that they concentrate on the ceremony and it doesn’t affect them too much. But then he shared that it’s tough burying so many Post members. “It’s tough when you know them and the family personally”, he said. I can’t imagine. That’s what makes the Honors Team so special. They’ve created lasting memories for so many families in the last 50 years by honoring their loved ones. They don’t do it for the recognition, but they deserve some. Well done and thank you to all the members of the Post 416 Military Funeral Honors Team.
But did you know?
The firing squad had an auspicious start at where else but Rays & Dots. (Note: For those of you wondering like me, auspicious means ‘suggesting that future success is likely’.) Someone asked a member of the American Legion whether the Greendale Post had a firing squad. Upon finding out
they did not he gave the member $100 to get one started. For the past 50 years American Legion Post 416 has had a Firing Squad thanks to that $100. Of course honorable mention should also go to Rays & Dots.
Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:
Week#64 Answer – There are seven churches in Greendale: Greendale Baptist, Greendale Community, Our Shepherd, St. Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, St Stephen the Martyr, and St. Thomas of Canterbury. Note: The New Day Church holds services at Martin Luther High School.
Week#63 Question – What famous woman visited Greendale while it was being built?
** Week #63 contributors Sally Chadwick, Ted Mainella, Greendale Historical Society, Bill Mullaley, and Dave Bauer.