Our County: Memorial Day reflections on the brave and fallen
by D. Gary Davis
May 20, 2014 | 677 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat the soldier’s last tattoo. No more on life’s parade shall meet that brave and fallen few. On fame’s eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread. And glory guards with solemn round the bivouac of the dead.”

— Theodore O’Hara

From, “Bivouac of the Dead”


There are three monuments on the east side of our County Courthouse.

The World War I monument has a plaque with 19 names. The World War II monument contains 120 names. The Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War monument has 11 names from Korea, 11 from Vietnam and two from the Gulf War. These monuments pay tribute to 163 Bradley County citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice in giving all. In doing so, they showed great courage and commitment so we may continue to enjoy all that freedom brings.

These are our heroes that help make up “The Bivouac of the Dead.” They, as well as their families and friends who suffered great loss and sorrow, must never be forgotten.

For these wars, overseas cemeteries serve as resting places for 124,917 U.S. war dead. Another 94,135 are missing in action, or were lost or buried at sea.

The Veterans Administration maintains 131 National Cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico), as well as 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. The Department of the Army maintains two national cemeteries, The Arlington National Cemetery and U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmens’ Home National Cemetery. Tennessee has four state veterans cemeteries, and Bradley County has its own veterans cemetery at Fort Hill.

Countless others are buried in private cemeteries. For these, a veteran’s medallion, designating branch of service, is available for veterans who died on or after Nov. 1, 1990. These medallions are to be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker to signify the deceased status as a veteran. They can be obtained through our local Veterans Service Office from the VA.

Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May, stands as a solemn American tradition that honors the sacrifices of past generations. It is a holiday we dedicate to the dead — to those who fell in defense of the ideals, beliefs and values we hold sacred.

America has been blessed as has no other country in the history of the world. The sacrifices of our armed forces have given us the security and freedom in which to grow and flourish as a nation — in law, human rights, science and technology, and the arts.

Memorial Day began in the 1860s when Americans began decorating the graves of Civil War dead with the flowers that abound this time of the spring. A seemingly simple gesture, this way of honoring the dead quickly spread to all corners of our nation. Remembering those sacrifices and what they have meant to our nation is the duty of the living. Fulfilling that duty comes naturally when memories of war are fresh in our minds.

That is why the ritual decorating of graves after the Civil War became so widespread so quickly. And with each successive generation came more wars. Hundreds of thousands of more young American lives were lost on the battlefields and the concept of Memorial Day became a tradition renewed by each generation’s sacrifices.

On this Memorial Day, let us pledge to renew our dedication to the true meaning of this day. We enjoy the lives we lead because of the generations of young Americans who gave their lives so that all of us could live in freedom and prosperity.

Our greatest duty to the men and women who have died in service to our country is to never forget what they have done for each of us — and what they have done for us as a nation. What greater sacrifice than to give your life in war so that generations yet unborn may live in peace?

Our local observance will officially begin at sunrise on Monday, May 26, when Navy Sea Cadet Chief Petty Officer Alex Abercrombie lowers American flags at the Bradley County Courthouse, Courthouse Annex and Cleveland Municipal Building to half staff. He will raise them back to full staff at noon. This will be the last time for Abercrombie, who has selflessly performed this solemn duty since June 1, 2013, each time the president or governor of Tennessee has issued a proclamation to do so.

Abercrombie, a Cleveland Christian High School senior, plans to join the U.S. Navy upon graduation. We are most grateful to him and thankful he will be succeeded by local Civil Air Patrol cadets for the coming year.

The formal Cleveland/Bradley County Memorial Day ceremony will be held in front of the Courthouse at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 26. Veterans who have been lost in wars will be acknowledged as well as those who have passed away since last Memorial Day.

There will be a guest speaker, and a new annual award will be presented. The award is titled “Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council Veterans Service Award.” Each year, it will be awarded to the individual (veteran or nonveteran) who has distinguished himself or herself by their exemplary service to the veteran community causes in Bradley County.

There will also be the Courthouse Show of Flags consisting of over 125 American 3-by-5-foot flags on display, each in honor of or in memory of a veteran.

Please join me for this observance honoring the brave and fallen.

My family wishes for each of you a Happy and Safe Memorial Day Weekend.