Instead of using the Memorial Day holiday to go to the beach or barbecue in the back yard, Burke VFW Post 5412 opted to spend the day doing what members say the holiday was created for, the remembrance of fallen soldiers.
“This is really what Memorial Day is all about,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11).
About 30 people gathered in front of the Burke Centre Conservancy, 6060 Burke Centre Parkway, to listen to speakers talk about what Memorial Day means to them, and what they said it should mean to everyone. The speakers, all veterans themselves, led the small crowd in prayers and song, while giving inspirational words in honor of American soldiers, past and present.
“Help us pray for those fighting today,” said Chaplin Gilbert Gibson, a retired commander from the Chaplin Corps of the U.S. Navy. “Unfortunately, there will be more names to remember next Memorial Day.”
Gibson read names of soldiers he said he personally thinks of each Memorial Day. Since the day is meant to honor their dedication and courage, he said, people should focus more on the purpose of the day, rather than spending it as a holiday of celebration.
“I can tell by the [VFW] hats here that you know names too,” said Gibson.
FOLLOWING A MOMENT of silence and the singing of “God Bless America,” Post 5412 Commander Margo Sheridan read a letter she said came from an Iraqi official commending Americans for their service in Iraq. Following the ceremony, Sheridan said it is important to spend Memorial Day doing something to honor American soldiers and veterans.
“We remember our fallen veterans,” said Sheridan. “It was important for us to have a ceremony for our Burke neighbors.”
Two of the ceremony’s speakers referred to some quotes from famous men in history. Dave Meyers, senior vice president of VFW Post 5412, said he recently read an inspirational quote by Winston Churchill. Meyers said that while the quote may have been uttered more than 60 years ago, it still had a pertinent message to Americans today. He couldn’t remember it word for word, but he summed it up as best as he could.
“What kind of people do they think we are that they wouldn’t think we wouldn’t fight back,” said Meyers, paraphrasing the Churchill quote.
Gibson read a quote from 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things,” read Gibson. The quote went on to talk about how it would be uglier to stand by and not fight for one’s rights or freedom, something Gibson said would be against the American spirit. He went on to commend the current soldiers serving in the Middle East and elsewhere, saying their courage is often overlooked and even criticized by the public.
“Now we have a new generation of American warriors,” said Gibson. “This generation of fighters is not losers who can’t get a job, as some would say. They are highly educated.”
The event was a first for the Burke VFW. Organizers said it went well, but they would have liked to have seen a larger turnout. Gibson said he didn’t think the 9 a.m. timing of it affected the turnout as much as people celebrating the day doing other things, like shopping or sitting on the beach.
“I won’t shop at any store that has a Memorial Day sale,” said Gibson. “It’s not part of it.”
"We hope to make this an annual event, bigger and better every year" said Elmer Savilla, a Burke VFW member and veteran of World War Two. "I’m not disappointed [with the turnout] at all."