The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Kristian Richardson
Commander American Legion Post 24 

Whitehall American Legion/VFW to Cancel Memorial Day Celebration


The 2020 Memorial Day Ceremony in Whitehall has been cancelled.

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform the community that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the American Legion Post #24 and the Ralph Sullender Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4603 are cancelling the annual Memorial Day celebration. On average, this beloved celebration draws more than 60 individuals to the Whitehall Cemetery to place flags on the graves of veterans, sell small red artificial poppies to raise funds for disabled veterans and to place the American flag at half-staff until noon. It would be impossible to distance sufficiently to keep participants safe from potentially contracting the virus given the expectedly large turnout. For this reason, the leadership of the Legion and VFW have decided in our community's best interest to cancel this year's event.

We are living in an unprecedented time for our generation. A similar pandemic like this has not occurred in over a century, since the Fall of 1918 when Spanish Flu ravaged the world's population and had a significant impact on Montana's civilian and military population. We must continue to take measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19 to ensure our community remains healthy and vibrant as we transition into social and economic recovery.

Memorial Day has been celebrated in the US since 1868. The members of the American Legion Post #24 and VFW Post #4603 have always held a ceremony at the cemetery to honor the men and women of our nation's military service who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, our democracy and our way of life. The members of the Legion and VFW in your community want you to know that we are thinking about you and your families during this trying time, and for all of us to take a moment to reflect upon what our military members, past and present, have given their lives for in defense of the United States of America. Many of you likely know someone who has served in the military or who currently serves. Each of these individuals took an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States at all costs. This is one of the most difficult and poignant choices an American can ever make. It is not taken lightly. We should all honor that decision and place those that have made it, and who paid with their lives, in great reverence this Memorial Day.

Men and women of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in Jefferson County will be still placing small flags on graves, hanging flags along Legion Ave and honoring our vets fallen on active duty military service this Memorial Day. We ask that your thoughts and prayers are with these greatly appreciated departed souls this and every Memorial Day.

A bit of history on Memorial Day:

Every year, on the last Monday in May, Americans observe Memorial Day. Originally called "Decoration Day," Memorial Day is a holiday that commemorates those who have died in battle while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Historians have traced the origin of Memorial Day back to the American Civil War. The end of the fighting brought great relief and peace to many and was also a time of intense grief. Thousands of soldiers lost their lives and those who survived, often returned home to hear that their fathers, brothers and other relatives had been killed in the war. Following the end of the war, people across the country decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers and flags, held special services for the deceased with songs and speeches, and honored the dead in other solemn ways.

An important figure in establishing the official observance of Memorial Day was General John A. Logan. On May 5, 1868, General Logan issued an order to designate May 30 as a day to honor those who died in the Civil War by decorating the graves of soldiers and sailors from the North and South. General Logan called it "Decoration Day."

In 1882 the name changed to Memorial Day.

Tom Harrington speaks at the 2019 ceremony.

In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared it a national holiday with Memorial Day being observed on the last Monday in May.

Memorial Day is more than just a day to remember Civil War soldiers who died for our country. The United States has fought in many other wars, and there are countless people who have died serving our country. Memorial Day is a time to honor any American service member who has fought and died in an American war.

Let us remember the fallen in all the American Wars: American Revolution, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War Era (includes Afghanistan, Desert Storm, Iraq Freedom, Panama, Grenada, Somalia).


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