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Memorial Day service honors fallen soldiers

Memorial wreaths were displayed during the Memorial Day service held Monday at the Gen. Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

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John Umberger, a Roswell resident who was the guest speaker at Monday’s memorial service at Gen. Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery, quipped that there were two speakers at Gettysburg during the Civil War. One spoke for an hour and the other spoke for only eight minutes.

U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Rowland speaks during Monday’s Memorial Day service. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

If you guessed the eight-minute speech was given by President Abraham Lincoln, then you guessed right.

Umberger read from the Gettysburg Address, which is one of the shortest yet most memorable speeches in human history. An excerpt follows:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

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Much like a portion of the battlefield at Gettysburg was dedicated to fallen soldiers, so to has a section on the northeast side of South Park Cemetery been dedicated as the final resting place for local veterans.

Around 200 people attended Monday’s ceremony. Most were able to sit under the shade of a tent, but many stood in the blazing late-morning sunlight to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Like the Gettysburg Address, the history of Memorial Day is tied to the Civil War.

Umberger said the celebration of Memorial Day began on May 1, 1865 when a group of emancipated slaves dug up the remains of Union soldiers who had been buried at a Confederate prison camp in South Carolina, the state where the Civil War started on Jan. 9, 1861, when shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

The former slaves held formal funeral services for the deceased soldiers, decorating their graves with flags and flowers, Umberger said.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Another speaker at Monday’s memorial service was Mark Rowland, who also gave the benediction. Rowland called himself a “peacenik” veteran, which he knows may have a negative connection.

Rowland explained that he served in the U.S. Air Force after the Vietnam War as a mechanic for the Flying Tigers.

Though the United States wasn’t engaged in active conflict, the nation was entangled in a very tense Cold War.

He said this about Cold War veterans: “We served with valor and dedication. What most people are not aware of was how close we were to going to war.”

During the ceremony, proclamations by Mayor Dennis Kintigh, Gov. Susana Martinez and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce were read.

Tom Blake led the singing of “God Bless America,” Chaplain Catalina Rosa gave the invocation and the colors were posted by the Roswell Veterans Honor Guard, led by Commander John Taylor, who writes the weekly veterans column for the Roswell Daily Record.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

Local businesses, organizations donate wreaths

Memorial wreaths for Monday’s Memorial Day service at the Gen. Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery in Roswell were donated by:

Military Order of the Purple Heart — Anderson Bethany Funeral Home

American Legion — Assumption, San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) and St. Peter Catholic churches

Prisoner of War/Missing in Action — First Presbyterian Churches

Veterans of Foreign Wars — Roswell Daily Record

Disable American Veterans — Roswell Livestock Auction Co., Smiley and Benny Wooten

Columbian Wreaths — Signcutter Investigators/Jeff Everly

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