For some, Monday marked the beginning of summer with cookouts alongside family and friends, while for others Memorial Day had a greater and more somber significance, guest speaker Stephen Murray said during an observance at the Highland County Veterans Memorial in Hillsboro.
“Today, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, we, as a nation, ask that you pause for just one of these 1,440 minutes to remember those young men and women who gave all that you may live free in the greatest country in the world,” Murray said.
Murray talked about the beginnings of Memorial Day — originally called Decoration Day — and said that in 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect, moving Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 day of observance, regardless of the day of the week, to the last Monday in May.
The speaker talked about the first observance of fallen members of the military on May 5, 1866, and quoted someone he called Tamra Bolton: “This is the day we pay homage to all those that didn’t come home. This is not Veterans Day. It’s not a celebration. It is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom.”
In closing his speech, Murray said: “To those among us that have served honorably, I salute you and say welcome home. To all that have made the ultimate sacrifice, a grateful nation shall never forget you. Thank you.”
Hillsboro VFW Post 9094 Commander Rick Wilkin served as master of ceremonies. He said that since the Highland County Veterans Memorial in Hillsboro was erected on the Highland County Courthouse lawn, new bricks purchased and placed in memory of loved ones have been added to the memorial each year just prior to Memorial Day. But he said that due to complications from COVID-19 and an illness in the family of a man who usually oversees the placing of the new bricks, this year’s bricks did not arrive in time to be placed before Monday.
“But rest assured that within the next few days they will be installed here,” Wilkin said.
Some people, Wilkin said, get Veterans Day and Memorial Day confused. He said Veterans Day is for the veterans still living, while Memorial Day is, “for those that gave their life for this country.”
The observance included patriotic music, an explanation of the POW/MIA table, prayers, speeches, a 21-gun salute, the laying of a wreath in front of the veterans memorial and more.
It also included proclamations from the city of Hillsboro and Highland County Board of Commissioners read by mayor Justin Harsha and commissioner Jeff Duncan, respectively.
“It’s an honor to be here enjoying the freedoms so many gave their lives for,” Harsha said.
Duncan noted the presence of a large crowd and said it was nice to have Memorial Day back to normal after local observances were truncated the past couple years due to COVID-19.
There were presentations by the Highland County Veterans Service Office and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
One of those disabled veterans, former Hillsboro resident Russ Roever, who has been a member of the Hillsboro VFW for 26 years, asked all veterans at the observance to stand.
“When the program is over, go up and thank him or her for a job well done,” Roever told the crowd. “They are the reason you have the freedoms you have.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.