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Editorial: Many ways to honor fallen on Memorial Day weekend in Carroll

Korean War veterans Daniel Frock, right, and Raymond Brown place the memorial wreath honoring military veterans of the Pleasant Valley community during the 99th Memorial Day celebration at the St. Matthews United Church of Christ cemetery on May 28, 2017.
Korean War veterans Daniel Frock, right, and Raymond Brown place the memorial wreath honoring military veterans of the Pleasant Valley community during the 99th Memorial Day celebration at the St. Matthews United Church of Christ cemetery on May 28, 2017. (Phil Grout / For Carroll County Times)

While hopefully enjoying a three-day weekend, some of us will breeze through a Monday off from work without giving so much of a thought as to why we have the day off.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, started to honor Union soldiers who had died during the American Civil War, and later expanded after World War I to include all who died in war or military action. It did not become Memorial Day until after World War II, and it was traditionally held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell.

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This year marks the 51st time Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens has hosted a Memorial Day Ceremony to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. The ceremony, which include speeches, wreath-laying and a 21-gun salute, will begin at 10 a.m. in Dulaney Valley’s Circle of the Immortals.

Since the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends, Memorial Day officially has fallen on the last Monday in May. This move likely contributed to the holiday losing much of its original meaning, and instead becoming an opportunity for folks to take a short reprieve to the beach or have a cookout or picnic with friends and family.

No matter when you choose to do so, be it today, Monday or the original May 30 date, we encourage everyone to take a few minutes to reflect and honor those who have died fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.

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In Carroll County, there is no shortage of events to do exactly that. Westminster in particular, has one of the longest standing commemorations of fallen heroes for Memorial Day in the country. On Monday at 10 a.m., the Westminster Memorial Day Parade will step off on Pennsylvania Ave. for the 151st consecutive year. It’s a tradition that began when a teenager by the name of Mary Shellman organized a children's parade to decorate the graves of veterans in the Westminster Cemetery for the first Decoration Day in 1868.

The American Legion Carroll Post 31 was entrusted with that responsibility from Shellman in the 1930s and continue to do so to this day, and even visit cemeteries outside Westminster to place flags on the graves of fallen servicemembers.

Nearby, in the sleepy community of Pleasant Valley, they haven’t marked Memorial Day for quite as long, but will have its 100th documented observance of Memorial Day on Sunday, May 27. At 1 p.m., participants will assemble at the Pleasant Valley fire hall, then walk to the Pleasant Valley cemetery to place flags on veterans’ graves.

Also Sunday, Elaine May-Spem, a retired sergeant major with the U.S. Marine Corps, will serve as the keynote speaker for the Memorial Day program at New Windsor Presbyterian Church, 200 Church St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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On Monday, nearly every community in the county will have some sort of Memorial Day observance.

At 9 a.m., the Town of Hampstead and the American Legion Post 200 will have a service at the Hampstead War Memorial on Main St.

At 11 a.m., the Sykesville American Legion Memorial Post 223 at 7327 Slacks Road will host a program there, followed by a Civil War group firing a cannon to recognize those who died in service from the Civil War to present day.

Also at 11 a.m., the American Legion Gold Star Post 191 in Mount Airy will have a program at the Pine Grove Chapel and Cemetery at 787 S. Main St.

Sgt. Major Thomas Beyard of the Army National Guard will speak at a service at 2 p.m. Monday at the Hesson-Snider American Legion Post 120, 9 Broad St., in Taneytown.

And in Union Bridge, VFW Post 8806 at 15 Penrose St. will have a Memorial Day service at 6 p.m. Monday in front of the VFW War Memorial prior to opening night of the fire department’s weeklong carnival.

Whether you are able to attend one of these ceremonies or simply take a few moments on your own, please, take some time to recognize and thank those that fought for our freedoms and paid the ultimate price.

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