5/23/2019 8:53:00 AM Honoring the fallen this Memorial Day To those that gave the last full measure
“U.S.S. Erie torpedoed by German u-boat just off Willemstad Harbor.” Opaque watercolor by C.W. van der Ven (Naval Museum, The Hague).
Frederick T. Smith, Chief Boatswain’s Mate, USN. Photo taken in 1960. Served from 1939 until 1961.
Photo courtesy of Fred Smith II.
By Ally Garbe of the Press-Citizen
April showers bring May flowers, which means a change is upon us. Students finish their school year and the sun shines longer and brighter every day. We begin preparing for summer as Memorial Day approaches; however, it's important to remember its purpose to honor those who have given their lives in the line of duty for their country.
I sat down for coffee with Fred Smith, long-time expert at Ace Hardware of Longville and modest artist. He's also a U.S. Navy veteran.
"People don't always remember how Memorial Day began," Fred said. "It's about soldiers who gave their lives. As President Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, those who lost their lives in the line of duty needed to be honored so they hadn't died in vain."
The American Civil War began in 1861. For decades, northern and southern states disagreed on a number of topics such as expansion, slavery and rights of individual states. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, several states seceded from the United States. The war continued until 1865 when the Confederacy surrendered. It is the deadliest war to be held on U.S. soil, where 620,000 soldiers died in battle.
Decoration Day was declared as May 30, 1868 by General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans. All through the war, families had been decorating their fallen heros' graves in the springtime and no particular battle had occurred in the end of May. He asked his nation to decorate the resting places of fallen comrades of the dreadful war they were attempting to recover from. On that day, James Garfield spoke at Arlington Cemetery where 20,000 Union and Confederate graves were decorated in honor of their loss.
The Spanish-American War and World War I brought 116,901 more U.S. lives lost in the line of duty by 1918; Decoration Day was now intended to honor all fallen American soldiers.
The 1915 poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae depicted the European fields flourishing with the red flower in the wake of destruction caused by World War I. Moina Michael responded with a poem of her own, We Shall Keep Faith, vowing to see poppies as a reminder of the bloodshed of U.S. wars. In 1920, the symbol she had created was to be used as American Legion's U.S. national emblem of remembrance. Disabled veterans began manufacturing artificial poppies to sell. Today, profits benefit veterans and servicemembers in need. National Poppy Day is now designated as the Friday before Memorial Day.
In 1971, Congress officially established Memorial Day as a federal holiday and was recognized as the last Monday in May.
Fred took this chance to reminisce of his father, Frederick T. Smith, also a U.S. Navy veteran. He served during World War II on the U.S.S. ERIE, protecting trade routes on the Pacific coast of the Panama Canal. The ERIE was originally commissioned in 1936 and then 'showed the flag' in Southern American ports. In 1942, the ERIE became an escort for a number of convoys towards Guantanamo Bay and Caribbean Sea Frontier. She sank on December 5, 1942 while awaiting orders.
"Dad didn't talk much about his experiences," Fred said. "He served proudly like his father, brothers and friends."
As this Memorial Day approaches, remember to appreciate the holiday for what it is intended for: respecting, remembering and paying tribute to the people who have given the greatest sacrifice for our freedoms.
The National Moment of Remembrance asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."
Attend your local Memorial Day Services to learn more about the importance of honoring and supporting our veterans.