CENTREVILLE — Monday morning, May 25, both the Centreville American Legion, Jeff Davis Post 18, and Kent Island American Legion, Post 278, held ceremonies observing Memorial Day. All local veterans organizations have remained closed since mid-March due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions. They are not included in Governor Larry Hogan’s phase 1 re-opening.
Both Legion observances were made known to their post members, and members were encouraged to follow CDC guidelines if they were to attend.
Post 18 met at 8 a.m. in front of the Legion, where Post Commander Greg Manning set up a speaker system. Those present stood or sat out front spacing themselves at least 6 feet apart from one another, a few wearing face masks as the program began.
Everyone was asked to come to attention, saluting, as the American was raised, then lowered to half-staff slowly, as bugler Art Anderson played taps. 1st Vice Commander Joe Leilich handled the flag.
Andy Cowley served as chaplain, providing an opening prayer of remembrance of those who died serving our nation.
Manning commented on a report he had heard on television about a poll that found “43% of American have no idea what Memorial Day is all about.”
“My first reaction is that our schools are not teaching about Memorial Day to the students. However, maybe we at the American Legion, and other veterans’ organizations, like the VFW should be doing a better job to educate the public,” Manning said before beginning his Memorial Day address.
“Our honor and patriotism as Americans demand that, regardless of the current state of affairs, we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in defense of freedom …. For 244 years our fathers have fought tyranny across the globe,” he said. “Our freedoms have come at a great cost to our youth, who bear the burden of the fight …. Never shall we as Americans forego the memory and sacrifices of those responsible for our very existence as a nation of free people.”
He concluded saying, “The ultimate sacrifice that a human can make is to forfeit their life for the good of humanity.”
Manning invited others to speak if they wanted; no one did. Following the ceremony, members quickly gathered materials and departed for the gravesite of Centreville resident and World War I veteran Jeff Davis, for whom the post is named, where a wreath is laid each year for Memorial Day.
At 11 a.m., members of the KI American Legion gathered at the Stevensville Cemetery for a brief service. Post Commander Chuck Lewis presided. Again, those who attended practiced social distancing.
Post Auxiliary Chaplain Paula Grimes, now serving as Auxiliary Department Maryland Chaplain, provided a blessing to begin the ceremony. Lewis followed with remarks for the solemn occasion, recounting the history of the celebration.
He said, “The first national Memorial Day took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May each year. Prior to this, from 1868 to 1970, it was observed on May 30th. Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War. Memorial Day now honors all of those men and women who died in any war while serving with the United State Armed Forces. Some still refer to it as Decoration Day. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.”
He continued, “Today we honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice …. Every crisis has new heroes. During the 9/11 attacks, they were the first responders running into burning and crumbling buildings as others ran out. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the most visible heroes are the health care professionals, who are saving others and risking their own lives while doing so. These heroes have much in common with the people that we honor today — America’s fallen veterans.”
He added, “Giving your life so others could live is the ultimate definition of ‘self-less.’ They are rich and poor, black and white, male and female …. In short, they look like anyone of us.”
Lewis shared several emotional stories about veterans in wars who served their nation when needed and gave their lives. One a medic during WWII, one a nurse in Vietnam, a pilot shot down over Vietnam, a squad leader in Iraq, 36 African American soldiers volunteering to serve as nurses during the Spanish-American War who died of malaria while serving others. All had one thing in common — they all put the needs of others ahead of their own.
Lewis concluded the service by reading the names of 30 members of Post 278 who died since May 2019: Frank Angelozzi, Robert Bast, William Bird, William Bullis, Charles Cogan, Alfred Daywalt, James Dowd, Phillip Elliott, Ronald Forst, Leroy Habersack, Joseph Horenstein, Delmar Johnson, Elbert Jones, Robert Kallas, Charles Klepper, Robert Lanham, Stuart Lawhorne, Jerome Lay, John Mageovage, Kenneth Rogers, Harvey Ross, Peter Schmidt, John Schumaker, James Stinchcomb, Nicolas Stoer, George Walters, Raymond Walters, Archie Watson, Leonard Wendling and Charles Young.
A recording of taps was played following the reading of the names.