For many years it had been tradition for the local Greenfield units of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to sponsor the community’s yearly observances for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
First the DAV, and then the American Legion gradually became unable to continue due to declining and aging membership. With the DAV and the American Legion no longer able to be involved, the VFW could not continue alone with the annual celebrations for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. But as membership on the organizations declined, Memorial Day 1995 went by without the traditional parade and cemetery services.
It was during that summer that several veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm got together to ensure that the observances continued.
By Veterans Day that fall a local program was arranged with help from a Washington C.H. group of veterans. During that winter work on veterans graves was underway, while the group began to organize formally and make plans for Memorial Day that year.
During that same time this group also began a campaign to erect a Veterans Memorial for the town hall lawn which would contain the names of those who lost their lives in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm. This was accomplished in a year with something over $14,000 raised from community donations. The memorial was dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 18, 1996.
Members of the group began volunteering to care for veterans graves in the local cemeteries including the municipal cemetery on North Washington Street, St. Joseph’s Cemetery at the east end of Spring Street, and the Old Burial Ground behind Travelers Rest on Front Street. They began to provide and place flags on every veteran’s grave. With the help of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts this was done along with cleaning headstones and placing a sprig of evergreen “in remembrance” on each veteran’s grave.
Articles of incorporation were drawn up on Jan. 10, 1997, and a statement of purpose was written. A contract with the U.S. Army was entered into to provide rifles and blank ammunition for the use of the honor guard. Uniform shirts, helmets and caps were chosen. Efforts began to seek cooperation with the Highland County Veterans Service Commission, which began furnishing part of the more than 1,500 grave flags needed and making available the remainder for purchase. The statement of purpose includes honoring and serving veterans of all branches of the armed forces of the United States, living and dead; promoting pride, love, and respect for the country and its flag; maintaining veteran’s monuments and grave markers; and sponsoring Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances.
The Concerned Veterans of Greenfield continues its cemetery work including repair and maintenance of the Civil War monument in the main cemetery, placing flags on all veteran’s graves in all cemeteries, holding fundraisers for the purchase of its share of the flags, arranging annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day services, presenting programs to the schools, the scouts, senior citizen groups, and serving as honor guard at funeral visitations, graveside rites and in churches.
Submitted by Roberta Riley, whose husband, the late Hayward Riley, was a founding member of the Concerned Veterans of Greenfield.