Memorial Day 2019

Veterans and representatives from the city, county and university gathered to honor soldiers killed in war.

Representatives from the city of Starkville, Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University came together Monday to recognize Memorial Day and honor those killed during military service.

The ceremony was held in front on the Oktibbeha County Courthouse on Main Street. Family members of fallen soldiers sat beneath shady tents, allowing the ceremony to defy the blistering heat.

After an invocation, Mayor Lynn Spruill spoke, reflecting on her past military service as she noted the two dog tags around her neck.

Spruill read the poem "In Flanders Fields" during her speech, commenting that the poem was everything there was to say about remembering the fallen in an elegant way.

The poem was originally written by a Canadian physician John McCrae over 100 years ago following a battle in World War I in which he lost a friend.

"I believe in the commitment, the training, the purpose and the appreciation that service brings to our lives," Spruill said. "I know it did so to mine."

District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams asked the audience to reflect on the names listed outside the Oktibbeha County Courthouse on a stone memorial and the families attached to them.

"I hope that you will take time today to go over the list on individuals that's on that marker today," Williams said. "We see them as just a name, but I remind you that they are someone's child. They are someone's brother. They are someone's uncle. And, if it's like me, they are someone's cousin."

Colonel William S. Denham of the United States Air Force was the keynote speaker for the event. Denham currently serves as the vice commander at Columbus Air force.

Denham said that those who were killed in war died protecting their friends and the ideals of their country.

"For those that have fought for our nation and paid the ultimate price, they are our fathers, our mothers, brothers and sisters, sons, daughters, friends and neighbors," Denham said. "They did so because they believed in something greater than themselves."

Denham shared the story of Master Sergeant John A. Chapman.

Chapman died after volunteering to return to a hostile area in order to rescue a fellow soldier during an early battle in the Afghanistan war. He was shot several times but continued to fight for over an hour.

Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor last year.

Denham said Chapman's name will be inscribed Tuesday on a memorial at Columbus Air Force Base.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War. It was originally called Decoration Day, in reference to the act of decorating the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Many places claim to have started the tradition of Memorial, or Decoration, Day, including Columbus, which served as a hospital town following the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, the bloodiest battle in American history at that point.

The holiday was originally celebrated on May 30, as that date was not the anniversary of any major battle.

When the federal government recognized Memorial Day as a federal holiday in 1968, it was established as the last Monday in May, creating three-day weekends for government employees.

Each Memorial Day, there is a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.

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