GRAFTON—Om Monday, Grafton residents and guests lined the streets in Grafton to celebrate and honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States with the annual Memorial Day Parade and ceremonies.
The parade took off down Main Street at approximately 10:00 am., led by Grafton City Police Chief Robert Beltner and Sheriff Terry Austin.
The parade lasted for nearly two and half house and featured many local businesses, athletic teams, schools, baton twirlers, area first responders bands, and included a special appearance by Batman and Wonder Woman, along with the bat mobile.
At the conclusion of the parade, the community and guest gathered at the Grafton National Cemetery for the 152nd Annual Memorial Day Observance.
The 152nd Memorial Day ended at Walnut Street, and participants in the parade went into the Grafton National Cemetery to place flowers and flags on graves, to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The program started with musical selections from the Grafton High School band under the direction of Christopher Rucker, followed by the tolling of the bell.
Master of Ceremonies John E. Whitescarver, opened the ceremony and welcomed everyone to the 152nd consecutive Memorial Day Program at the Grafton National Cemetery. He asked those in attendance to remember the true meaning of the day.
“On this solemn day, we take time here to remember those who have served. We remember especially those who have dies on foreign fields in the defense of the United States of American,” said Whitescarver.
The Grafton High School Band performed the National Anthem, followed by the Invocation, led by Charles “Chuck” Jeffries Pastor at new Season Assembly of God.
Keith Barnes, Director of the West Virginia and Grafton National Cemeteries and welcomed everyone to the observance.
He shared with attendees the history of National Cemeteries throughout the country and the importance of remembering those that have fallen.
“Our vision is always to look back and remember wars, dedication and sacrifice,” voiced Barnes. “As a nation we make a promise that those who serve make the ultimate sacrifice that their lives will not be forgotten.”
Every year, students the county participate in the Memorial Day Essay Contest. This year, Grafton High School Sophomore Jason Gainer read his winning essay.
This year’s theme was “Freedom, Flags, Red, White and Blue-Respect the soldiers that died for you”
Gainer read his essay aloud and spoke about the significance of Memorial Day and the rich history that the city of Grafton holds.
“152 years ago, the longest continuous Memorial Day Parade in the state of West Virginia was started,” he voiced. “People march the great streets of Grafton to commemorate the sacrifices soldiers made for this country.”
Gainer concluded his essay with reciting, “We will always respect your sacrifice, because we are the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Whitescarver introduced Lieutenant Colonel United States Air Force John D. Garvin to give the Memorial Day Address.
Garvin is a C-130H2 Instructor Navigator, Instruction Airlift Planner and currently serves as an Assistant Professor Psychology of Leadership at the Untied States Military Academy-West Point.
He told attendees about his various assignments and the heroes that have made the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom.
Garvin, who is currently an instructor, revealed that he is arming his students with the most powerful weapon he knows, “Knowledge.”
“When I look into their eyes, I see a bright future. Our young men and women are competent. We are in great hands, they are out future, and America’s future looks bright,” he voiced.
He encouraged everyone to make new friends after the ceremony and ask what does Memorial Day mean to you?
Garvin voiced that every day individuals walk among heroes.
“You will have a unique response from everyone. We walk everyday among heroes,” he expressed. “We will continue to pledge allegiance, and we will always be the land of the free, because of the brave. By dawn’s early light, may country roads always bring us home.”
When Garvin concluded, a presentation of wreaths was done by the veteran’s organizations and the Grafton High School Class of 1969.
The Taylor County Honor Guard and the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery presented the Memorial Salute and Jonah Rucker and Allison with GHS Band did Taps and Echo.
The ceremony was concluded with a Benediction led by Jefferies.