By Harry Shovlin
My experience with Memorial Day started with what was known as Decoration Day in the 1950s. Our families would go to our church’s cemetery to clean up the weeds and debris, cut the grass and plant geraniums. We would read the names of the tombstones and say a few prayers.
We would also visit the graves located next to our family’s plot. It is always a good way to know your neighbors.
My parents used this time as a teachable moment because we knew the families who owned the plots next to ours, and we were able to learn more about them.
My great grandparents, grandparents and uncle Tony are buried in that plot. My uncle Tony was a member of the Army when he was killed by a hit and run driver; unfortunately, the driver was never found. Uncle Tony was in basic training getting ready to be shipped to the South Pacific. He is the only member of my family to die while in active duty in the military service.
Every Memorial Day was when we focused on him the most. I never met him; however, as I became older, I began to understand the significance of Memorial Day. Marching in the Memorial Day parades as a member of my high school band seemed not as important as paying our respects to the deceased members at the cemetery.
I always felt that we needed to spend time praying and reflecting on all of our deceased relatives and those who served in the military.
Over 1 million United States citizens have given their lives so that we can live in a country which has a democracy. We owe them our respect.
My early experiences on Decoration Day led me to join others who wanted to create an area within Falls Church City to hold ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
The group was led by Jeanine and Paul Smail, and Tony Scerbo. These individuals asked the City Council to name any location within Falls Church to be dedicated and designated as Veterans Memorial. After many requests, the City Council agreed to form a committee of City residents to investigate available sites and to prioritize them. The committee promptly named two localities; first was the front of City Hall, and second was in front of the Community Center. The council selected the Community Center. The flagpole was moved and the land around it was designated as Memorial Park.
After the site was approved, the plans to physically create the memorial began. The committee was elated to have a location to celebrate the ceremonies on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. The City Council wanted the committee to have a more substantial venue than a flag pole and plaque. The problem arose when there were no monies allocated to fund the project. Eight years later, the seven stone pillars were placed as you