Residents gather in Silverhill to observe Memorial Day


SILVERHILL, Alabama — Residents gathered in at the Silverhill Veterans War Memorial on Monday, May 31 for the annual Memorial Day Service, hosted by the Silverhill Veterans Memorial Organization.

“On behalf of myself and all the residents of the town, we want to say thank you to the Silverhill Veterans Memorial Organization for all the work they have done over the years to give us a place where we can remember those in Silverhill and the surrounding areas who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Mayor Jared Lyles. “Today is not a day to celebrate, but it is a day to remember those who died in service for our country.

“Everyone here owes a debt to those service men and women who paid an expensive price for our freedom. It is a debt we can never repay, but it is one that it is our obligation to at least give what we can though observances like these.”

Following prayer by the Rev. Jesse Adams, followed by the National Anthem sung by Tonya Sterling and announcements by event organizer Frankie Kucera, who introduced guest speaker, Bill Bergman of Foley, a Vietnam veteran.

Berman gave a brief history of Memorial Day, held each year on the last Monday of May to honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military.

Originally known as Decoration Day, the observance originated shortly after the Civil War and was declared an official federal holiday in 1971.

While it is unclear exactly where Memorial Day originated, in 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

The annual community-wide event, was first celebrated May 5, 1866 and was a day in which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance which was held May 30, 1868 designated “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country …,” he said.

On the first Decoration Day, Gen. James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.

The day gradually evolved to commemorate all American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among others.

One of the biggest traditions of Memorial Day began when the VFW began making and selling red poppies in 1922, which would become known as the Buddy Poppy Program.

Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30 until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. The change went into effect in 1971.

Almost every state now recognizes Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.

“As long as ‘Old Glory’ is raised we will continue to honor those who died for our freedom,” Berman said. “If we lose this flag, we lose those opportunities, so we must continue to fight to keep it.”

The ceremony concluded with the reading of names of area veterans who have died since Memorial Day last year.

A flag was also presented by veteran Ed Evans to the family of Charles E. Douglas and residents were provided the opportunity to honor a fallen veteran during the ceremony.

Tonya Sterling led the group in singing “God Bless America” and Joel Sterling ended the ceremony with the playing of T.A.P.S.