Laurel and communities of all sizes took pause May 26, to mark Memorial Day. Traditionally, the day of respite was celebrated May 30, but in 1968 Congress passed a bill, which called for the holiday to be observed on the last Monday during the month of May.
Originally called Decoration Day, it was set aside as a day of remembrance in honor of the brave men and women who died in service to our country. There are more than a few accounts of the holiday's actual beginning, with more than two dozen cities laying claim to being the birthplace of the annual event.
There is evidence that women's groups in some Southern states were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. Unlike Veterans Day, which recognizes all who have served their country, Memorial Day specifically recognizes the sacrifice of those who died in military service for the United States.
Arlington Cemetery is the resting place of several soldiers whose identity is unknown. In 1998 the remains of the Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War were exhumed and ultimately identified. With the advancement of science, along with refined technology and rapidly advancing DNA testing, there may never be another service member laid to rest without being identified.
Did you know that Old Town is the resting place of at least one unknown soldier? He lies behind St. Mary of the Mills Church, just beyond the parish offices, in its neatly kept graveyard. There is a lone marker, which simply reads, "Unknown U.S. Soldier." It is undated. Walking about the burial grounds, you might pass it by without taking notice.
Limited information about the grave is available in several publications, graciously loaned to me by the Wellford family. In the May 17, 1953 printed program, which notes the opening of St. Mary of the Mills School, it simply states, "In 1862 an Unknown Soldier of the North was buried with military honors."
A hardback publication entitled "St. Mary of the Mills Sesquicentennial" embellished that sparse data by stating, "The circular contour of the top of this unknown soldier's gravestone confirms that the unfortunate decedent's persuasion was of the Blue rather than the Gray."
For many, the holiday marks the unofficial beginning of summer. May we never forget the sacrifice of all the servicemembers who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy without a second thought.
The American Rosie the Riveter Association, which honors the working women of World War II, will host a free program Saturday, June 28, 10 to 11:30 a.m., in the Fellowship Hall, First United Methodist Church, 424 Main St. Bruce Hoener, of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum, will be the guest speaker. There will be a PowerPoint presentation of D-Day and model airplanes from the era, including the B-29 Enola Gay and B-17 Memphis Belle. Authentic posters and memorabilia of World War II will be on display. The venue is handicap accessible and light refreshments will be served.