Memorial Day speaker: We must remember holiday’s significance

FAIRMONT – The Memorial Day weekend might have been a washout for picnics and parades, but the annual Memorial Day ceremony to honor soldiers simply moved indoors Monday morning.

Despite a last-minute change of venue, from Lakeside Cemetery to the National Guard Armory, many turned out for the ceremony.

Guest speaker, State House Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, pointed out to attendants that Memorial Day is meant to be more than just an extra day off.

“It’s more than a three-day weekend to mark the start of summer,” Gunther said. “It’s an important reminder of those who died for our country. … I pray many people will take the time to remember the true significance of this holiday; it’s sad to see some people have forgotten.”

Memorial Day has been observed officially since the 1860s.

“These were ordinary human beings like us, but they did something extraordinary,” Gunther said. “From the patriots who fired the first shot in the Revolution to those serving overseas today … they’re not in it for the money or medals. They are acting and defending the patriotism that this country was founded on. More than one million have died in defense of this country. They sacrificed for the freedom that we enjoy today; it was the veterans that paid the price.”

Gunther then encouraged the crowd to use their freedoms.

“Use that freedom of speech to reach out to your elected officials to let them know what we want,” he said.

Gunther closed with the poem “It is a Veteran,” noting that all the freedoms mentioned in the constitution have been given to us thanks to veterans.

“It is a veteran, not a preacher, who gave us freedom of religion,” Gunther recited. “It is a veteran, not a reporter, who gave us freedom of the press. It is a veteran, not a poet, who gave us freedom of speech. It is a veteran, not a protester, who gave us the right to assemble. It is a veteran, not a lawyer, who has given us a right to a fair trial. It is a veteran, not a politician, who gave us the right to vote. It is the veteran who salutes the flag, it is the veteran who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped with the flag.”

The annual Memorial Day parade was canceled early Monday morning due to heavy rain, but organizers were pleased nonetheless with the results of the day.

“It threw us off a little bit,” admitted Jim Feeney, commander of the Fairmont VFW. “But everything worked well even with the changes.”

“The National Guard helped us out, and we figured out what needed to be done,” Feeney said. “It all came together quick once we figured out what we had to do.”