The Meaning of Memorial Day

Submitted by Memorial Day Salute

FULTON–The theme for this year’s Memorial Day Salute Parade is “Proud To Be An American”.  Many area individuals, organizations, businesses and industries will try to develop their interpretation of this theme in the vehicles or floats they will enter in the parade on Saturday, May 28th.

The Fulton Memorial Day Salute is a two-day event that is 30 years old this year, started and carried on by the four Fulton Service Clubs.  The present service clubs working on this year’s events are the Fulton Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, and the Sunrise Rotary clubs.  The four service clubs have always been assisted by the Fulton Veterans Council in promoting and putting on this event.  In years past, the Optimist and the Fulton JayCees were participants.  These two clubs have since disbanded.  Several of the men and women who work on the Memorial Day Salute Steering Committee are veterans.

As we enter the eleventh year of the 21st Century, our thoughts are with the men and women who protected our freedoms for the 235 years America has existed. During the last century, we had many conflicts.  World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and The Gulf War come to mind.  All in all, over 625,000 brave Americans have died fighting in a U.S. uniform during the 20th century.  In this century, we have experienced two conflicts, one touching our shores on September 11, 2001, which have lead to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.   We must keep these brave men and women, who are serving on active duty, in our thoughts and prayers as we experience this Memorial Day.

How did Memorial Day come to be?  The actual birthplace of Memorial Day is the nearby village of Waterloo, New York.  Shortly after the Civil War ended, a Waterloo druggist named Henry Welles collaborated with Union General John B. Murray to organize a local tribute for the war dead.  The program included processions to and from the cemeteries, military music, speeches, wreaths, crosses, and bouquets.  Of all the early such remembrances, Waterloo’s 1866 program most closely resembled Memorial Days to come.  The pristine village of about 5,300 located only 40 miles from Fulton, in central New York’s Finger Lakes region, still follows its original Memorial Day model.

In 1966, when Lyndon B. Johnson was President, he proclaimed Waterloo to be the official birthplace of Memorial Day.  On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Memorial Day, Waterloo opened to the public a 22 room Memorial Day Museum.  Waterloo has the glory of officially holding the “first” Memorial Day Program, but in reality, over two dozen communities in both the north and the south have claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.

The Memorial Day Salute Committee is very aware of the program they are offering to the community.  We have never treated it as a celebration, but a program designed to raise the community’s awareness of the importance of this day of remembrance.  The Fulton Veterans Council has a more traditional program on the Monday (the official Memorial Day) of Memorial Day weekend in which they visit the cemeteries and place American flags on all known veteran’s graves, and honor the deceased veterans at the various monuments around our city.  Flowers are set out and a wreath is thrown in the Oswego River to honor those who have died at sea.

Recently, it was published that the World War II veterans are dying at the rate of nearly 1,000 a day.  These men and women are at least 83 years old and most are older.  Many newspapers mark the obituaries of veterans with an American flag.  This is a very nice thing to do.

Many years ago, before 1966, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day.  This name comes from the fact that by the end of May, even in our northern climate, the flowers were in bloom and it was time to decorate the cemeteries.  While the high death rate of the American Civil War  (1860-65) was the initial reason for starting Memorial Day, this should not be the only reason for this holiday.  Today, we should remember our deceased loved ones no matter if they are veterans or not.

The Fulton Service Clubs and the Fulton Veteran’s Council have established “Fulton’s” way to remember this most important holiday.  In the fall of each year, all of the Veterans’ organizations in the Fulton area choose a “Veteran of the Year.”  This person is the Grand Marshall of the Memorial Day Parade.  This year’s Grand Marshall is World War II veteran, John McGraw.

We have the largest parade in the county, with nearly 100 units, and many bands, starting at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 28th.

On Friday evening and all day Saturday, there are many activities held at Recreation Park on Route 3, West Broadway.  Local and nationally recognized groups will be playing music. The featured band on Friday evening is none other then Fulton’s own “Dr. Boogie.”   This group packs the house wherever they play.  The G. Ray High School Jazz Band and the music of Rick Bush will also be on the Friday evening stage.

On Saturday evening, the main feature is “Orleans.”  Some of the Orleans hits we might remember are:  Still The One, Dance With Me, Let There Be Music, and Love Takes Time.  This soft rock band is a delight to listen to.  The marching band stand-ins, the Off Broadway Dancers, the Fulton Community Band, Virgil, the Magician, and the music of L.A. Rising will perform on the Fulton Savings Bank stage.  The event hours are from 5 to 11 on Friday and 10 to 10 on Saturday.

There will be rides, lots of food, and of course, the ever-popular fireworks display on Friday evening.  The whole weekend is designed for family fun and entertainment.  Everyone is invited to attend.  All events are free.

After the parade is completed, about noon on Saturday, several of the bands in the parade will perform on the Fulton Savings Bank stage in the Community Center in Recreation Park.  For up to date information, check our website-  This new website was designed by the staff at Oswego County and is sponsored by them.

Come to Fulton for the Memorial Day Salute, but keep our deceased loved ones in your hearts and prayers.