On May 30, 1868, General Orders No. 11 was directed to strew flowers and other decorations upon the graves of United States comrades who died in defense of this country.
In direct observation of that order given 148 years ago, members of the Mineral County communities gathered in Schurz, Hawthorne, Mina and Luning to decorate the graves of fallen brothers and sisters in arms who died defending the United States.
John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, explained in a statement read at Veteran’s Memorial Park, “it is the purpose of the commander-in0=-chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the county in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.”
Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day, established as a day when the Union Veterans took time to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Today, the importance of Memorial Day has grown with each war or conflict.
John Stroud said, “We must remember that there has been no other nation on earth whose sacrifice has been greater than ours…nowhere is n the annals of history has there been a country before ours that has given s much to afford freedoms for others.”
In his speech, Stroud mentioned the cemeteries of Arlington, Ardennes, Normandy and Pearl Harbor.
He read the names of those Mineral County residents who lost their lives during war or conflict or in the line of duty. The bell was rang for each name.
Traditions such as decorating the graves of these men and women in arms have become a lost tradition, one that Stroud spoke about to those in attendance.
“We must rededicate ourselves to honoring the legacy of our nation’s fallen by educating all who believe Memorial Day is just another holiday and by passing our knowledge along to the next generation so that they may do the same. We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow understands the true cost of freedom. There is no greater way to honor the memory of those who have secured it.”
In Mineral County’s tiny towns, the abundance of visitors to the cemetery shows that we have not forgotten about those who gave so much of themselves. A steady stream of cars could be seen going to and from the cemetery with people visiting many family relatives in passing.
Only one week after celebrating Armed Forces Day, where we honor those who currently wear the uniform, Memorial Day weekend is not about camping, blow out store specials or barbecues, it is about honoring those who put on the uniform and died while defending it.
“…We take solace in knowing their lives were not lost in vain and we remain forever grateful for having gifted us the greatest gift on earth – freedom,” Stroud would conclude.