GRAFTON—What started off on the chilly side turned into a beautiful day to commemorate the sacrifices of American heroes that lie beneath the white headstones in both of the state’s National Cemeteries.
Once again, Grafton residents and guests lined the streets long the annual Memorial Day Parade route to celebrate and honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
The 154th Annual Memorial Day Parade took off down Main Street at approximately 10:00 am., as first responders cleared the path of on-lookers, for the yearly event that has become known as one of the area’s largest attractions.
The parade lasted for nearly two hours and featured veterans’ organizations, local businesses, athletic teams, schools, baton twirlers and church groups. The event also included some special appearances by Batman, Wonder Woman, Star Wars personnel and the West Virginia University Mountaineer.
“After having to scale down last year’s parade, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were more than excited to send a parade down the street that was similar to what we have done in years past,” voiced West Virginia Memorial Day Parade Committee Chairman Scott Willis. “The turnout of both participants and guests was great!”
He went on to express his gratitude for the hard work and dedication of those who work so tirelessly to host the annual event.
“I honestly have to say that I am so humbled to work with such a great group of volunteers. At the end of the day, we came together to make a something happen that our fallen would have been proud of. We led our community in celebrating our lives made possible by their sacrifice,” Willis expressed.
“Reflecting on the day, I know our true heroes are smiling knowing that we helped honor them for the 154th continuous year, in our little piece of almost heaven,” he added.
At the conclusion of the parade, the community and guest gathered outside of the Grafton National Cemetery for a brief but fitting tribute to America’s fallen soldiers.
Because of restrictions handed down by the federal government, the annual ceremony was unable to be held on the grounds of the cemetery, but the Memorial Day Committee wanted to be able to still honor the soldiers that died in the nation’s endeavor of freedom.
The ceremony was opened with an invocation by David L. “Robbie” Robinson, Chaplin American Legion Post 12, who was then followed by Julie Gaines Royce, who sang a beautiful acapella rendition of the National Anthem.
“Again, welcome to Grafton National Cemetery, I ask you to remember the reason we are here today,” Robinson said. “It is not because there are sales in the stores. We are here to honor the men and women who rest here and gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may stand here today in a free country. They answered the call, and we owe them.”
Robinson then introduced John Powell, Commander, American Legion Department of West Virginia, who served as this year’s Memorial Day speaker.
He spoke of a solider who laid down her life at just 19 years of age, as a National Guard medic. While a chronic back condition could have allowed her to forego deployment, she opted to face the enemy head-on.
“On Feb 28, 1991, just hours after President Bush declared cease fire and ended the Gulf War, she was killed in action when her convoy struck a landmine,” Powell shared.
He shared with those in attendance a letter she had penned to her parents and loved ones in the event she did not make it home.
“She did not die in vain and neither did any of the Americans who we honor on Memorial Day,” Powell noted. “That is why we are here today… to honor the sacrifices made by the one million heroes who have died while defending this country since the American Revolution.”
Following his presentation, Commander Powell presented a wreath on the steps of the cemetery, and afterwards the Taylor County Honor Guard presented a military salute, followed by Corey Robinson and Doug Robinson with the playing of Taps and Echo.
Robinson then closed out the annual ceremony with a benediction.