Memorial Day – the official start of summer. It’s on this day that we attend parades, dust off the grill and gather with family and friends. But it’s much more than that, Memorial Day was put in place as a day to remember those soldiers that fell in combat risking their lives for their country. In essence the day is about gratitude.
Although placing flowers on graves is an old tradition, the modern Memorial Day observance began with the end of the Civil War. In four years of fighting, more than 622,000 Americans, from the North and the South, had died. Cemeteries across the United States were established, and with those cemeteries came mourners – they decorated the graves of their fallen heroes with flowers; recited prayers; held tributes – it was a very solemn day.
When the conclusion of the Civil War came in 1865, there was a yearning to remember those lost - or at the very least for the healing of wounds from the war. A pharmacist from Waterloo Village, New York by the name of Henry C. Welles is credited with the inspiration that “it would be honorable and appropriate to recall the sacrifice of the patriotic dead by displaying floral tributes on the gravestones of the fallen.”
It is on Memorial Day that we honor our local heroes. One such veteran is Christine Mayes. Ms. Mayes was born on April 28, 1968 and was a native of Rochester Mills, PA and a graduate of Marion Center High School.
Following graduation, Christine enlisted in the United States Army and served on active duty for three years in Germany. After her release from active duty, Specialist Christine Mayes continued to serve her country as an Army Reservist with the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, 99th Army Reserve Command in Greensburg. Her unit was activated in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
SPC Mayes was killed in the line of duty on February 25, 1991, when an Iraqi SCUD missile destroyed the company’s barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in the final days of the Persian Gulf War. Twenty-six other soldiers were killed that day and 89 were injured.
Over the course of the Memorial Day weekend as your family is enjoying picnics, take a moment to pause and remember why this day is celebrated, to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.