Events to focus on reason for holiday

By Josette Keelor

Few weekends of the year pack more into three days than Memorial Day weekend does.

The unofficial start of summer includes pool openings, festivals and extra time with family, but Monday’s observance of Memorial Day reminds that the long weekend is also for remembering those who died so Americans can enjoy weekends like these.

This year’s events will honor tradition, but area organizers have added some changes too.

On Monday in Edinburg, a ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2447 will for the first time acknowledge area veterans who have died since last year’s ceremony. The reading of 19 names is a way of paying tribute to area veterans and their service, said Vietnam War veteran Ray Powell of Woodstock.

“The main thing is to keep Memorial Day alive,” he said. “It’s not just a day for hot dogs and cookouts. It’s not a vacation day, and people have gotten away from it and away from the understanding of it.”

“We decided to do something different this year,” he said. “And if this goes well, we might start it as a tradition.” Everyone is invited to attend the free 11 a.m. ceremony and lunch.

Other ceremonies around the area begin at 12:45 p.m. Sunday in Front Royal, where a fallen warriors ceremony will take place in the gazebo on Main Street. The event will include speakers, choirs, information from an area German shepherd rescue group and trained golden retrievers from the Veterans Moving Forward group.

Sunday in Clarke County, the Berryville VFW Post 9760 and American Legion Post 41 will combine for a 2 p.m. ceremony in Rose Hill Park.

That day in Washington, a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will include patriotic music by the National Symphony Orchestra beginning at 8 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m. Then on Monday at 2 p.m., the National Memorial Day Parade will feature marching bands, veterans units from all 50 states and patriotic floats and balloons progressing along Constitution Avenue from 7th Street past the White House to 17th Street.

On Monday, the Winchester-Frederick County Veterans Council will hold a commemorative service at 10:30 a.m. in Shenandoah Memorial Gardens at the South Chapel of Omps Funeral Home, 1260 Front Royal Pike, south of Winchester, with speaker Dr. Betty Moseley Brown, national president of the Women’s Marine Association.

In Strasburg, American Legion Post 77 will hold a service at 11 a.m. Monday at Riverview Cemetery with guest speaker the Rev. William Erbach. A lunch of finger foods will follow.

In Harrisonburg from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, the second Memorial Day Celebration at Rockingham Country Fairgrounds will include free live music, two shows by the Dialed Action BMX stunt team and a classic car cruise-in with more than 100 vehicles. Registration is free and includes a $35 gift package. A ceremony honoring veterans, active duty personnel and local first responders also will take place.

Powell said last year’s ceremony in Woodstock drew in a crowd of more than 200 and combined the efforts of the American Legion Post 199 of Woodstock and VFW Chapter 936.

He will emcee the event and said performers will include Rhonda Shelton of Woodstock singing with her daughter and Vietnam War veteran and Silver Star Medalist Art Decker of Shenandoah County in full uniform playing the bugle.

Retired from the Army Corps of Engineers in 1990, Powell served two tours in Vietnam and had two assignments in Germany.

“The big thing is that we don’t want to forget those veterans that sacrificed their lives in our recent conflicts,” Powell said. He reminded that service men and women serve around the world in training, security and embassy work. “They are all in very hot situations, … [They’re] putting their lives on the line to help other countries.”

“People need to understand what we’re doing to protect freedom for our country, for the people of our country.”

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or