HURLOCK — On Memorial Day this year, and for many years prior, the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery held a ceremony, Thursday, May 30, in Hurlock, Maryland, to honor fallen servicemen and women.
Before Memorial Day became what many deem the unofficial start of summer and the symbol of a three-day weekend, it was known to be observed May 30 every year.
It began as “Decoration Day” in the late 1860s — a solemn day set apart for the remembrance of those who died for our country — not to be confused with Veterans Day, which honors past and active service members.
This year’s keynote speaker, Department 1st Vice Commander Philip Dorsey of the American Legion, assured those in attendance that the “men and women who sacrificed so much for our great country” would not be forgotten.
“United they stood and united they sacrificed,” Dorsey said, before telling the story of a National Guard member who was killed in the line of duty.
He read a 2016 political quote from the man’s Facebook page that said, in part: “... Whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. United we stand. Divided we fall.”
Dorsey used his platform, speaking to an audience of nearly 100 people, to emphasize his belief that politics “don’t matter” when it comes to combat.
“Labels that we hurl today, like Democrats, Republicans, red state and blue state, matter not when facing lines of machine guns,” he said. “[And] politics are irrelevant to families who hear the words, ‘We regret to inform you,’ when their loved one has been killed in battle.”
Dorsey continued, reminding guests that “we continue to lose heroes every day in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and in military training accidents and missions around the world” — some of them only teenagers, he said.
He urged people to “be there” for the family members of fallen warriors by offering to help with tasks like “handling a car repair, babysitting or mowing a Gold Star family’s lawn.”
“As Americans, we should all remember that freedom isn’t free,” Dorsey said. “It is only possible because of our fallen heroes who have paid this high price.”
During last year’s ceremony, keynote speaker and Chairman of the Cemetery Committee Ronnie James detailed numbers of soldiers who had been killed in combat, noting wars that dated as far back as the 1700s.
“Millions of men and women have unselfishly answered the call when their nation was in need,” James said. “Throughout history they have fought for a myriad of reasons. To gain independence, to maintain the union, to help to free the world from tyranny, oppression and evil.”
But, most notably, James called America “blessed to have citizens that will serve, fight and sometimes die.”
The wreath laying ceremony this year was presented by veterans organizations. Many of those who were involved are also members of the cemetery committee.
They included Jewish War Veterans; various Veterans of Foreign Wars; various American Legions; Disabled American Veterans; Vietnam Veterans of America; Marine Corps League; Fleet Reserve Association; Retired Officers Association; 29th Division Association; Veterans of the Bulge; Legion of Valor of the United States of America; American Ex-Prisoners of War, Maryland Chapter; Military Order of the Purple Heart; Veterans Recognition Committee; AmVets; and auxiliaries of the organizations.
Music was provided by the Easton Middle School Band under the direction of Band Director Donna Ewing.
The lowering of the colors ceremony was performed by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 648.
The invocation and benediction was given by Pastor John R. Allen III.
The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office performed a rifle volley salute.
A reception for all, including the public, was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Federalsburg.
The Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery is under the umbrella of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.