PDT Staff Writer
The Memorial Day celebration Saturday in Wheelersburg began with a parade from the Kroger parking lot, up Ohio River Road to Duis Avenue, to the Wheelersburg Community Park, site of the veterans wall.
Rick Wesney was riding around, helping to line up the units, including multiple department fire trucks; pageant queens; the Wheelersburg High School Marching Band, and other participants, including the very popular Lady Liberty float featuring Charlie’s Mustang, which honors a fallen hero from the Vietnam War.
“We have been doing this parade for about eight years now,” Wesney said. “It’s an amazing thing. We don’t have any protocol, any pre-sign-ups or anything like that. We just invite everybody to come. We kick-off at 11 (a.m.) o’clock, and about every year it increases somewhat.”
Wesney said one of the things that makes Memorial Day in Wheelersburg special is that people come from all over the region to participate.
“Memorial Day is a day we set aside,” Wesney said. “Seven years ago we planned and built a memorial over at our park. And the purpose of that was to memorialize and honor the people who gave of their lives to make our country a better place to live.”
Dignitaries sat in chairs in front of the memorial in stifling heat, as one-by-one, representatives from the various branches of the military placed wreathes in front of the wall. Just before the ceremony began, State Rep. Dr. Terry Johnson reflected on the day.
“Memorial Day is a very special time for all Americans, but particularly people in southern Ohio,” Johnson said trying to escape the heat under a shade tree. “We have not forgotten the significance of this day. We remember our relatives who passed away. We remember our soldiers who have passed away. We hold them in a very honored place. It’s a wonderful holiday that we particularly embrace here.”
Johnson related the history of Memorial Day to those in attendance, and talked about how it was originally called Decoration Day.
“It was a day of decorations; attending burial plots; of passing memories to younger generations about relatives deceased but not forgotten, ” Johnson said. “The holiday has gone to an even great significance after World War II, when so very many of our brave heroes fell.”
Johnson said the change to Memorial Day occurred in 1967.
“The name has changed but the spirit of the holiday remains the same,” Johnson said. “The same as it was after the Civil War, when our nation reeled from the pain of so many killed, so many maimed, so many wounded psychologically, by the brutalities and inhumanities of war.”
After Johnson spoke, the crowd joined in singing “God Bless America,” and when the ceremony was over, some people stayed for a picnic lunch under one of the shelters, as veterans from several wars renewed acquaintances, sharing stories and tears.
“We have about 300 names on the wall now and maybe 200 bricks engraved,” Wesney said. “There’s room for lots more, and we invite anybody that wants to enjoy that or to be on the wall or to buy a brick, they are available. To get more information on it they can give me a call at 740-547-8057. If we run out of room we’ll make more room.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.