This year’s ceremony, organized by the Griffin-Spalding County Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee, was held in remembrance of Spc. Johnathon Davis, 20, a local soldier who was killed in Afghanistan on March 29 as a result of enemy small-arms fire.
After the Griffin High School JROTC presented the colors, retired MSG Lee McRae talked about the history of Memorial Day, pointing out that what is now a federal holiday once started out as Decoration Day, with people decorating the graves of fallen soldiers during the American Civil War.
Although New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day in 1873, McRae said, the movement of commemorating those who lost their lives in the war could have come from a number of cities around the same time.
“It’s likely that it had many separate beginnings,” he said. However, “It’s not important who was first. It’s important that Memorial Day was established.”
Next members of the Spalding High School JROTC placed the casket flags of seven fallen soldiers, among them Davis, onto a coffin and later removed the dedicated flags before folding the casket flag covering the coffin.
Local Vietnam veteran Daniel Ham then made a special presentation to the family of Davis, including his wife Kristen and newborn son Benjamin Johnathon.
Retired Col. David Otto also recognized the various local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion and urged those veterans not engaged in local groups to get involved.
“All these are veterans groups that continuously serve the veterans in this community,” Otto said. “(Being involved) gives us an opportunity to remind people that this isn’t just a three-day weekend. It’s Memorial Day.”
The guest speaker of the event, Col. John King, commander of the 48th Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia Army National Guard, said in his speech to the audience that Memorial Day is returning to people’s minds as the day it truly is.
For a while, King said, Memorial Day was at risk of being seen as a day of barbecue, the opening of the community pool or the start of the summer. But for some reason, Americans have begun thinking about the military again on Memorial Day.
“We often say that freedom has a price,” he said. “Today is the day to say ‘Thank you’ for those generations who footed the bill. Treat Memorial Day with reverence and respect, and others will follow your lead.”