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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Local Memorial Day, flag ceremonies honor longstanding traditions

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

With flagpole dedication organizer Jack Dalton (right) explaining the origins of the project that culminated in Monday's ceremony, VFW Post Commander Roy Giesen (at right side of flag) and Seth Rossman raise the Stars and Stripes for the first time on the new 40-foot flagpole near the intersection of Veterans Memorial Highway and U.S. 231 South.
All too often, the true meaning of Memorial Day can become obscured by the thrill of auto racing, the warmth of the holiday sun and the aroma of the season's first cookout.

However, with two significant local ceremonies Monday, Greencastle residents were not about to let that occur.

The traditional Memorial Day ceremony with VFW Honor Guard, rifle salute and a bugler playing "Taps" was conducted in front of about 50 spectators at 10 a.m. Monday in the Veterans Section at the southwest corner of Forest Hill Cemetery.

An hour later, the scene shifted to the gravel parking area along the southwest corner of Veterans Memorial Highway and U.S. 231, where a 40-foot flagpole and 8-by-12 foot flag were dedicated in a special ceremony on the city's South Side.

Officially, Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May as a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the American Armed Forces.

Known originally as Decoration Day, it originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union soldiers who died in the war. However, by the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

"Memorial Day is something we celebrate because we are free," Pastor Kelzo Buck Martin of Clinton Falls Community Church, serving as guest speaker at the Forest Hill service, told the gathering. "We don't live like other countries live because we are free."

Martin likened the sacrifice of all the veterans honored on Monday to the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for Christians everywhere.

"Just like Jesus Christ," he said, "your veterans were willing to lay down their lives for you."

The traditional rifle volley and playing of "Taps" followed, concluding the time-honored service at Forest Hill.

At the flagpole dedication, local businessman and philanthropist Jack Dalton recalled how the latest project grew from a simple omission in 1999 or 2000.

In the old Speak Out section of the Banner Graphic, he recalled Monday, someone had written in to gripe that Greencastle had a roadway dedicated as Veterans Memorial Highway, yet on the Memorial Day in question, no one saw fit to put up even a single American flag along the route.

Dalton, Frank Hutcheson, John Sutton and others set out to make certain that criticism never got raised again. They canvassed local organizations and received the backing of VFW Post 1550, which also provided the Honor Guard for the flag ceremony Monday morning.

The group started a fund at the Putnam County Community Foundation with the intent of maintaining 25 original 3-by-5 foot flags purchased and put up by Jack and Shirley Dalton the following Memorial Day.

The Daltons also bought 1,000 small flags on sticks intended to be stuck in the ground along the curb over the length of Veterans Memorial Highway. However, what began as a nice patriotic gesture quickly went awry.

"That was a mistake," Dalton conceded Monday. "They wouldn't stay standing up."

No sooner had a crew of volunteers set out all those small flags then they began receiving reports that several had fallen over or had been blown down. Dalton and his wife spent the rest of the day trying to remedy the flag situation.

However, passersby, seeing only what appeared to be American flags unceremoniously strewn upon the ground, were quick to criticize again, Dalton recalled.

Then along came the tragedy of 9/11 and a renewed sense of American patriotism. While the original 25 flags were intended for use only each Memorial Day, the City of Greencastle asked to borrow them in the post-9/11 period.

Many of those who attend Monday's Forest Hill Cemetery Memorial Day observance also visited the gravesites of family members in the Veterans Section of the cemetery.
After that, Dalton said, the city decided to take over managing future flag displays along Veterans Highway.

So with the funds remaining in the Foundation account, Dalton and his group decided to commission a flagpole to be erected at the intersection, culminating eventually in the dedication Monday.

With plans for a large intersection improvement project at Veterans Highway and U.S. 231 on the books, organizers wisely chose to wait until those modifications were complete before the flagpole project was physically undertaken.

While the original Foundation flag fund supplied the 40-foot flagpole itself, Jack and Shirley Dalton have committed funds of their own to the Foundation in order to maintain the American flags "to fly forever."

And the VFW has agreed to maintain the 24/7 lighting of the flagpole forever as well, Dalton said.

Following remarks Monday by Dalton and City Council President Adam Cohen -- who proudly pointed out the 302 trees that have been planted by the city along Veterans Highway -- the initial flag-raising ceremony was conducted by Post Commander Roy Giesen and Seth Rossman of VFW Post 1550.

In keeping with Memorial Day tradition, they briskly raised the flag to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered it to the half-staff position. There it would remain only until noon before then being raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.

The half-staff position is used in remembrance of the more than one million men and women who have given their lives in service to America. Tradition dictates that at noon their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

Honor Guard stands at attention as bugle plays "Taps," concluding the annual Memorial Day service Monday at Forest Hill Cemetery. [Order this photo]

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Thank you all who took on a project to honor the soldiers that assure our freedom. I am proud to live in a city where this is not taken for granted, but acknowledged. My father and many of his friends have a tree along the highway and I am sure were looking down saluting the flag as it flew high for them and millions of others.

-- Posted by whatruthinking2 on Tue, May 29, 2012, at 5:59 AM

My thanks go out to all who contributed to Memorial Day! I too am proud to have been raised in a city that has such respect for our vets. I remember my dad, a proud veteran of WWII, Thomas E. Hardwick, would write and deliver a heartfelt speech each Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Dec. 7, dedicated to the memory of the men and women of the armed forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. On behalf of my dear sister and brothers and those who remember the many years of "Old Daddio," Tom Wickie Hardwick on the court house lawn, at Forest Lawn and at the V.F.W those many years, come snow, rain or shine, "Lest We Forget!"

Dick Hardwick, Fullerton, CA

-- Posted by Dick Hardwick on Tue, May 29, 2012, at 5:59 PM

Pastor's name is Kelzo "Buck" Martin, not Kelzo Buck. Great article, otherwise.

-- Posted by cll on Tue, May 29, 2012, at 9:44 PM

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