Deerfield Observance Shows Meaning of Memorial Day

Village honors veterans of eight conflicts dating to the War of 1812.

for Deerfield’s Memorial Day observance Monday morning when more than 300 people gathered at the flagpole to hear remarks of local veterans and .

“Memorial Day is a holiday that is observed, not celebrated,” Harrison, the president of the Deerfield American Legion Women’s Auxiliary, said. At first it was called Decoration Day,” she added about the first commemoration on May 30, 1868.

Harrison explained the holiday began as an effort to take care of the graves of soldiers who were killed in the Civil War. “North or south, it didn’t matter,” she said of the initial remembrance at a new cemetery in Arlington, VA, which became Arlington National Cemetery.

“There was a crowd of 5,000 people there,” Harrison said of the initial Decoration Day. “After World War I it was changed to honor veterans of all wars.” That is when it became Memorial Day.

The tone became more serious after much of the crowd walked to the tunes of patriotic music from the Marching Band from Jewett Park to the Deerfield Cemetery a few blocks away. They remembered the 50 veterans buried there with taps and a military salute.

Legion Commander John Coughenour read the names of 50 veterans buried in the cemetery—not all were killed in action but all were members of the American military—going back to 200 years to the War of 1812, a man known only as Capt. E. Bell.

Though Deerfield had a population of approximately 3,000 in 1950, there are 15 Civil War veterans, 13 from World War I and 10 from World War II buried there. They include three from the Danner family who were killed in battle, according to Coughenour.

Johannes Danner died in the Civil War while both Elmer and Irving Danner fell in World War I. “That’s quite a loss for a family, three dying in two wars,” Coughenour said.

In addition to people who served in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I and World War II, names of people who fought in the Spanish American War, the Blackhawk War, Korea and Vietnam were read.

Rosenthal reflected on the relationship between Memorial Day and the  where students were raising awareness of worldwide human rights abuses. “We have our veterans to thank for the ability (of the students) to do this,” she said.

The mayor then told of a woman who arrived at during the wrapping of packages for troops in Afghanistan. The woman is a veteran who received one of the parcels in the past. “She put a human face to the names,” Rosenthal said.

Another reminder of the value of the military came from Al Zelent, a former Deerfield American Legion commander and survivor of the sinking of the U.S.S. Princeton during World War II.

“Their hoses were on us and their guns on the enemy,” Zelent said as he described the effort to save people on the Princeton. “They were fighting the enemy as they plucked us from the deep.”

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steve shay May 29, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Do you have a photo of Capt. E. Bell's gravestone you could post?
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