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Veterans, Community Remember

Memorial Day ceremony honors those who fought for America's freedom.

Jonathan Batt spent the morning of Memorial Day with his father William Batt, an Army veteran, walking through Chestnut Grove Cemetery, looking at tombstones and remembering those who fought for America's freedom.

"This is not just a day to have barbecues and party," said the former Herndon High School Junior NROTC member. "This day is really to remember the people who fought."

As a student at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Jonathan Batt was on leave to visit his family.

His father said because a majority of their family served in the military, they planned to spend the day of remembrance with family and friends.

But, before their afternoon events, the two attended the Herndon-Reston American Legion Post 184's Memorial Day observance ceremony.

Other members of the community, including Boy Scouts, town officials and residents of all ages also attended the ceremony.

Legionnaires assembled before Dmytro Andriuk, post chaplain, gave the invocation.

John Rogosky, post commander, opened the ceremony with a brief history of the day, adding that many Americans have lost sight of the day's importance.

Commending those in attendance, Rogosky said Americans should view the holiday as a day to remember those lost, and not as a day off, before introducing guest speaker Del. Ken Plum (D-36).

After quoting lines from "America the Beautiful" and offering more historical overview, Plum said it is because of military personnel that Americans enjoy so many freedoms.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "on this day I can think of no more fitting words to say to our veterans other than ‘Thank you.’"

PROCLAIMED ON MAY 5,1868 by General John Logan, national commander Grand Army of the Republic, Memorial Day was first officially observed May 30, 1868.

At the time flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery, which is now the site for more than 260,000 soldiers' graves.

New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873, and by 1890 the rest of the northern states followed.

The southern states first refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days.

It wasn't until the holiday was changed after World War I, to honor all Americans killed at war, that the southern states recognized the chosen May holiday.

Today Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May, although several southern states, including Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee also have separate days for honoring the Confederate war dead.

In addition to attending ceremonies on Memorial Day, outward signs of remembrance have been displayed through the wearing of red poppy flowers.

In 1915 the poem "In Flanders Fields" inspired Moina Michael to promote the wearing of red poppy flowers as a remembrance for the holiday.

The poem spoke of the red poppies that had sprouted above the ground where fallen soldiers had been buried.

From there red poppies became a popular symbol of the day, while also helping to raise money for servicemen, orphaned children and widowed women over the years.

In 1922, right before the holiday, disabled veterans with the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization began making the artificial poppies, becoming the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies.

DURING THE HERNDON ceremony, legionnaires handed out red paper poppies with a tag saying "In Memorandum 2005."

They also laid two memorial wreaths at the graveside for two unknown confederate soldiers who were buried at Chestnut Grove.

In addition, they recognized those killed while serving by lining the cemetery's roadways with casket flags, placed by HHS Junior NROTC. At the base of each flagpole was a plaque with the name of a fallen soldier and the war they served in.

In addition, Junior NROTC students placed miniature flags at the gravesides of military personnel buried at the cemetery.

Jonathan Batt said while in high school it was the duty of the program's juniors and seniors to display the flags at the cemetery.

In addition to lining the cemetery, Junior NROTC members also displayed the colors to open the ceremony and played "Taps" to conclude the ceremony.

Rogosky explained Post 184 has held a Memorial Day ceremony for the last few years, adding if the weather is windy and rainy they will not raise the flags.