Memorial Days in Parkersburg, West Virginia in the mid-1950s were a big deal for me. I was in the Boy Scouts, and our troop always marched in the annual Memorial Day Parade, along with veterans, members of civic organizations and assorted town poohbahs. We were led by the majestic Big Red Marching Band, the Parkersburg High School band, which often got invited to the Macy’s Day Parade, Presidential inaugurations and other prestigious events. I didn’t really appreciate the significance of the Parade at that time, but I felt important being part of something special, almost sacred.

A recent conversation with Dennis Wilson, Parks and Facilities Manager for the Town of Brunswick, evoked memories of those Memorial Days long ago. Dennis is in charge of a program in which local volunteers put flags on the gravestones of veterans buried in one of Brunswick’s 16 cemeteries.

Each year during the 10-day period leading up to Memorial Day about 50 or 60 volunteers place the flags at the gravestones of people they know to have been veterans because of a medallion on the grave or the inscription or from some other source. The volunteers include members of Brunswick American Legion Post 20, the Rotary Club of Brunswick, Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts and other local citizens. Last year the volunteers placed about 1,500 flags and the number this year is expected to be about 1,600.

“It’s important to honor the veterans who have given so much to their country,” says Dennis. “Because of the timing in late May, it’s also a good time for the volunteers to get outside, right near the beginning of summer. I look forward to it every year.”

David Watson, Commander of American Legion Post 20 in Brunswick, says, “We’re honoring veterans by placing flags, but we’re also honoring their families. They also made a sacrifice on behalf of our country, protecting our way of life. It’s a remembrance of the past, how we got to where we are. It goes all the way back to the American Revolution.”

The invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin serves as a stark (and tragic) reminder that democracy is a fragile form of government. Freedom-loving peoples around the world must remain ever vigilant to protecting it, always willing to stand up to dictators, either real or wannabe, foreign or domestic. This issue is not about being a Republican or an Independent or a Democrat; it is about being an American.

Thanks to all the volunteers who take part in this annual tradition. Those who might want to participate can contact Dennis Wilson at the Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department.

On a final note, here’s a shout-out to all those people who worked to create the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza on the mall in downtown Brunswick. We were glad to honor two World War Ii veterans in in that Plaza: my father (David Treadwell) who worked on the Manhattan Project and Tina’s father (Walter Savell, Jr.) who was on a minesweeper in the Pacific. During this time of political polarization in the United States, it’s good to have poignant visual reminders that we’re all in this together, working to keep American united, strong and free.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: