By James King
Memorial Day — a day of remembrance to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. The Navy League Key West Council is hosting a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 25 at 9 a.m. at the Key West Cemetery at the USS Maine memorial section. (For a listing of other Memorial Day events in the Keys, see sidebar.)
Hundreds of people will be there to honor fallen soldiers of all wars. I use the word “soldiers “ to represent all the men and women who have taken the oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” In World War II, 16 million Americans were under arms, about 10 percent of the population; almost 500,000 died by the end of hostilities. The survivors of that 16 million are few, but some of that few will be represented at various Keys functions on that day memorializing their fallen comrades and shipmates. “All gave some, some gave all” and some are still giving.
Memorial Day’s origins are traced back to May 5, 1868 when General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (yes, that’s what it was called) ordered May 30, 1868 to be a day of remembrance for the soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies who died fighting our Civil War; or the “War of Northern Aggression” as some would say. It was called Decoration Day and graves were decorated with flowers and flags. Slowly it morphed into Memorial Day and the new name and celebration date became official in 1967.
At the Key West Cemetery celebration, members of VFW and American Legion will be well represented and active duty personnel in uniform will be there in abundance. Veterans are urged to wear a ball cap or T-shirt representative of their service. The speaker will be the Naval Air Station Key West Commanding officer Capt. Steve McAlearney. The outstanding bugler Jim Doepke will provide a rendition of the National Anthem. The VFW Post 3911 on North Roosevelt Boulevard is hosting an open house for coffee and pastries immediately following; all are invited.
— James F. King is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer that served in the Vietnam War as well as active member of the community, traveler and military history buff.
Other events Memorial Day events:
- Big Coppitt Key Cemetery, 9 a.m.: Sponsored by American Legion Post 28, the NASKW color guard will parade the colors and decorative wreaths will be placed.
- Big Pine Key Cemetery, 9 a.m.: American Legion Post 154 auxiliary Color Guard will place flowers and flags on gravestones. Public is invited
- American Legion in Marathon, 11 a.m.: American Legion Post 154 auxiliary Color Guard presentation, followed by a barbecue and open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Public is invited.
- Disabled American Veterans in Marathon, noon: American Legion Post 154 auxiliary Color Guard presentation, followed by a barbecue and open house beginning at 12:30 p.m. Public is invited.
- Islamorada Hurricane Monument, 9 a.m.: Invocation by Pastor Tony Hammon of Island Community Church, presentation of Colors, the National Anthem, the laying of the memorial wreath and a benediction. Public is invited.