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Memorial Day 2014

By Deborah Speicher

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For some people Memorial Day brings to mind a three-day weekend, barbeques, a day at the beach, and the Indy 500. What should be remembered is the reason for this holiday, which is to thank the veterans of this country and the families of those who have fallen.

After the Civil War, people began to realize that those who had lost their lives in the war had not been honored properly. There are many different stories of how Memorial Day was started. One was that on May 5, 1865, librated slaves in Charleston took the union solders from a mass grave and gave them proper burials. The other was to have taken place on May 5, 1866, in the town of Waterloo, NY. All of the shops closed for the day, flags flew at half-mast, and flowers and flags were placed on the graves of their local war veterans. Regardless of when and where it started, the people of this nation realized the need to honor those who paid the ultimate price. By 1868 it became a more united and national event. May 30 of each year thereafter would be “Decoration Day” and would later become known as Memorial Day; ultimately evolving into a three-day weekend at the end of every May.

Every Memorial Day, Florida National Cemetery (Bushnell) holds a ceremony to honor those buried there and their families. Even in times of high gas prices and economic turmoil, the Florida motorcycle communities were out in full force to support this event. Several military riding organizations participated. With approximately 400 bikes, the largest group riding into the cemetery was the Defenders MC (Tampa Bay Chapter). The Defenders MC is a group comprised of active and retired military, law enforcement, emergency services and public safety professionals.

The Defenders’ ride was led by Colonel Ron “Paladin” Rook, USMC (Ret.). Colonel Rook has coordinated and led this ride for the past several years. Local HOG and other riding groups were invited to join the Defenders for this ride. Thanks to a police escort and the excellent road captains from the Defenders MC, this 30+ mile ride went off without a hitch.

The ceremony had many poignant speakers, patriotic music and a “missing man” flyover by Ye Mystic Air Krewe. While the actual meaning and traditions of Memorial Day may have been forgotten by some people, those attending the ceremony came out to remember, honor and salute those who had defended our country as well as to those currently keeping our country and citizens safe. This year, the group “Flags for Fallen Veterans” and a couple of thousand volunteers made sure that 120,000+ flags were placed on the grave sites. A big THANK YOU to this group and all the volunteers that came out the day before to make this happen.

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