What does Memorial Day mean to Marcellus

In the highly technological society that we now live, it is easy to over look the exceptional life style that still exists in the town and village of Marcellus. We still have a quality of life much more like when the United States was founded. We live in a very definite community.
As major urban areas become a sprawl of homes, shopping centers, and multi-lane highways, Marcellus retains characteristics, which are becoming more and more unique. We live in a community, which is still focused between two hills in a beautiful valley with a constant stream flowing through it. The village of Marcellus is the focal point for commercial activity and education. We have been experiencing a renewal of the village through an ongoing renovation of many buildings. Our churches in the village form a spiritual hub. Think how blessed we are that the next community is not jammed up next to us. We truly have a home “town.”
Why is Memorial Day important to the community that is Marcellus?
Today we experience our outstanding life style because many of our forefathers in the town and village of Marcellus were willing to step forward to establish, defend and preserve the freedoms we have.
Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day following the Civil War because Americans decorated the graves of war veterans on May 30 with red flowers. In 1968 Congress officially establish May 30 as the national holiday of Memorial Day to honor those who died in military service. In 1971 Congress moved the observation date to the last Monday in May.
If we were to walk just around the corner to the Village Cemetery, we would find the new flag pole and memorial and sign which says, in part;
“Here rests many a soldier of the American Revolution, of the War of 1812, of the Civil War, their warfare is over … There is no one to preserve the memories and the legacy from the past. There is no one but us.”
When the American Legion members march in the parade to this point, they stop on North Street at the flagpole to raise the American flag and salute those who have served and those who gave their lives serving. After today’s ceremony, it would be entirely appropriate for you to just go up to one of the America Legion members and thank him for what he personally did for our country.
We, as a people, a community, and a nation are thankful to those who have served in the military both in the times of peace and the times of war. Each who has served in the military made a sacrifice by giving up time from a normal life with family and friends. Many veterans have known the agonizing boredom of waiting, training, and waiting and then experienced the terror of combat.
We should also never forget those veterans who have served in the current War and have been injured and are recovering. We should remember Marcellus’ own Jeff Guerin, our Iraq War veteran, who is still disabled.
Memorial Day weekend goes a step beyond reflecting on our past. The heart of maintaining a free society is the realization that FREEDOM IS NOT FREE. The highest price paid for freedom is the life of an individual serving his nation. All gave much, some gave all.
A nation is built on values. Without values there is no bedrock upon, which a nation can stand. All across the United States, this truth is recognized in community after community. It is very fitting that in Marcellus our Memorial to those who have died in the military is situated in the heart of the Village on land between three churches that reflect our spiritual heritage.
On this site the Grand Army of the Republic veterans held campfires and services remembering their brothers in arms from the Civil War.
On May 30, 1937 the Memorial Stone, which is before us was dedicated. The Memorial is a rock, just a big old rock. A rock so big that it could not be moved by an individual. The rock sits below the flagpole upon which the red, white, and blue of our national flag flies. On the rock are plaques of names of individuals who have died in military service since WW I.
The names may not be known to us as they are read out loud. To some, the names are old friends, classmates, or a distant relative.
To some the names are much closer, they may be a brother, son, father, or husband. To the family members those names are an intimate part of their life, flesh and blood.
For me, as a father, to hear the name Patrick Connor, is both a blow and to be uplifted at the same time. It has been 16 years since Patrick’s plane was shot down in the Persian Gulf on Feb. 2,1991.
He was declared Missing in Action, MIA. At the end of the Gulf war the prisoners of war were released, and when Patrick did not come down the stairs off the airplane, Marsha and I knew that he would not be coming back to Marcellus. We had said that either we were going to have a homecoming for him in Marcellus or that, because Patrick had accepted Christ as his personal savior, he would be at our homecoming in heaven. We had prayed “Lord, we just want Patrick found, no matter the outcome. Word came over a month later that his earthly remains were recovered off the coast of Kuwait on Easter Sunday 1991. In section 60 at the Arlington National Cemetery among the long lines of white tombstones rest Patrick’s earthly remains.
If Patrick were able to speak today, he would, I think, repeat the words that he wrote as the regimental commander of the NROTC units of the UNC and NC State in May of 1986 to the young students in the NROTC program.
“The Navy is not just a job. And it’s not just an adventure. For me it’s a commitment to the values and principles of freedom that I feel I owe a personal responsibility to upkeep and maintain.”
As a national leader wrote in a less complex era …
“Our national ideals remain threatened by global conflict, economic crises, violence and aggression … Throughout our history, America has been a symbol of hope for all people. We always accept the many responsibilities that this requires. Thus, we are prepared to assist other nations in their struggle for economic progress; to help those in other lands who suffer from political repression and injustice; to deter aggression by strengthening democracy around the globe; and to work tirelessly toward a world without war.
“Those who have sacrificed their lives for our country serve as a reminder that our work is unfinished. With vision and purpose, and a prayer in our hearts, let us dedicate ourselves to their memory.”
If not today then sometime in the future, I would encourage you to take time to come up to this rock, put your hand on its surface, touch a plaque, and remember the sacrifice that person made.
Parents, bring your children to the rock; explain what it means so that they will better understand the price paid for freedom. Look up at the flag; remember the red in our flag, which flies above the rock is the blood of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
In closing, I would like to quote from a letter written Sept. 16, 1776 by Samuel Adams to John Adams :
“May God give us wisdom, fortitude, perseverance, and every other virtue necessary for us to maintain that independence which we have asserted.”
In the future, when we hear the words ‘Memorial Day weekend,’ let us think of more than a holiday weekend. Who in the future will remember, who will maintain our freedoms? As the sign in our cemetery says “There is no one but us.”
May God bless the United States of America.
William H. Connor was the speaker for Marcellus Memorial Day May 28, 2007.

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