Small American Flags are placed at the gravesides at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona

You can help keep military traditions alive by volunteering

Memorial Day is a special time in our country. The first national observance of Memorial Day occurred on May 30, 1868. Then known as Decoration Day, the day was proclaimed by Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. They selected May as many of the flowers were in bloom and could be used to help decorate the gravesites.

This year’s event at VA’s National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona was no exception. Music by the Army National Guard Band resounded throughout the stage and seating area where 1400 people gathered. There were dozens of color guards, more than 50 wreath presentations, a rifle volley-where seven servicemembers in a uniform fire three shots (from an electrically charged gun to create the sound of firing) to equal a 21 gun salute; and much more.

Two of the most poignant pieces were the keynote speech by Susan Kee, a Korean American who is grateful for the servicemembers who fought in the Korean War. She spoke about how her family’s life changed when the Russians instilled Communism in North Korea. Fortunately, her family safely escaped to South Korea, but they lost everything during their exit. Her father fought alongside American servicemembers to defend South Korea, and she says that although some say the Korean War is the “Forgotten War” for many in Korea, war is not forgotten. It gave them their freedom, which continues to this day. Her speech was followed by the Prisoner of War and Missing In Action Remembrance table. Through this ceremony, special music, words, place settings, and other traditions are brought to life as a remembrance for those who are no longer with us or whose remains have not yet been found.

This event was one of many in our state, and it is presented by a group of dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been with the Support Committee for nearly two decades. As such, these volunteers are in their 60’s and 70’s. To continue the event’s tradition and help it grow, it needs younger volunteers to make it thrive. If you are 50 or under and would like to assist, you can volunteer for the support committee by contacting Sue Wudy via email at lilsarge@mindspring.com. The event also needs donors to help continue its efforts.

The event was taped and streamed online in partnership with AZTV7. You can watch the replay at https://www.aztv.com/memorialday.

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