HUDSON — Memorial Day is about more than grilling out or marking the unofficial start of summer.
Hudson’s parade and service on Monday remembered and honored those who died while serving their country, including those 100 years ago in World War I.
"It's a commemoration, not a celebration day, and we try and keep it that way,” said Cindy Suchan-Rothgery, who’s been the parade chairman for more than 20 years.
Past American Legion 14th District Cmdr. Joyce Hannum spoke during a service at Markillie Cemetery after the parade about the creation of Memorial Day and the American Legion.
Decoration Day was the precursor to Memorial Day that started with women decorating the graves of soldiers after the Civil War, said Hannum, a Bainbridge Township resident who joined the U.S. Army after graduating from Ledgemont High School in Geauga County’s Thompson Township in 1980.
Hannum said it wasn’t until after World War I, which was fought from 1914 to 1918 and killed millions of soldiers and civilians, that the day was expanded to honor all Americans who died while serving their country. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.
“From the American Revolution to our current operation against terrorism, 1 million American men and women have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in wars and conflicts,” she said. “We honor all of them, not just those with the highest medals or the heroes who fought in the most famous battles. They all died so we can continue to cherish the things that we love: freedom, country and family.”
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization, with more than 2 million members in more than 13,000 posts worldwide today, according to its website.
The organization was instrumental in the formation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, creation of the U.S. Flag Code and passage of the GI Bill, said Hannum, who served at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state and was honorably discharged in June 1983 before serving in the U.S. Army Reserve and Ohio National Guard for 20 years and retiring as a staff sergeant in 2004 from the 112th Engineer Battalion in Brook Park.
Tuesday’s parade of about 65 units included the Hudson Police Color Guard, Hudson High School marching band and veterans and civic organizations.
The parade paused at the Hudson Clock Tower, in front of the city’s restored World War I monument, for the tolling of bells 21 times, based on the 21-gun salute, using the Hudson High School “Victory Bell.”
The bronze plaque includes the names of the 80 men and one woman from Hudson who served in World War I. The American Legion was instrumental in the plaque’s installation on Decoration Day 1919.
The Hudson WWI Memorial Restoration and Centennial Committee recently collected $6,000 in donations to re-bronze the plaque and is raising another $10,000 to build a new granite base to replace its current crumbling base in front of the Boy Scout Cabin at the corner of state Routes 91 and 303. (Contact the David Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at firstname.lastname@example.org for donation information.)
The plaque, which was unveiled on Veterans Day 2018 after its restoration, will return to the Boy Scout Cabin once a new base is in place, hopefully by this year’s Veterans Day, but Suchan-Rothgery said it isn’t clear where the plaque will be in the meantime.
The American Legion and Auxiliary Lee-Bishop Post No. 464 sponsored the parade, as it’s done for more than 70 years. The post will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, with about 15 soldiers returning from World War I instrumental in its founding, officials said.
"As Americans, we should all remember that freedom isn't free,” said Hannum, currently a member of American Legion Post No. 685 in Streetsboro. “It is only possible because our fallen heroes have paid its high price.”
Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, email@example.com and @EmilyMills818.