The theme for this year’s Memorial Day Salute Parade is “America, United We Stand.”
Many area individuals, organizations, businesses and industries will try to develop their interpretation of this theme in the vehicles or floats they will enter in the parade today, May 25.
The Fulton Memorial Day Salute is a two-day event that is 32 years old this year, started and carried on by the four Fulton Service Clubs. The present service clubs working on this year’s events are the Fulton Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, and the Sunrise Rotary clubs.
The four service clubs have always been assisted by the Fulton Veterans Council in promoting and putting on this event. In years past, the Optimist and the Fulton JayCees were participants. These two clubs have since disbanded.
Several of the men and women who work on the Memorial Day Salute Steering Committee are veterans.
Organizers offered the meaning of Memorial Day: “As we enter the 13 year of the 21st century, our thoughts are with the men and women who protected our freedoms for the 237 years America has existed.
“During the last century, we had many conflicts. World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and The Gulf War come to mind. All in all, over 625,000 brave Americans have died fighting in a U.S. uniform during the 20th century.
“In this century, we have experienced two conflicts, one touching our shores on September 11, 2001, which have lead to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must keep these brave men and women, who are serving on active duty, in our thoughts and prayers as we experience this Memorial Day.
“How did Memorial Day come to be? The actual birthplace of Memorial Day is the nearby village of Waterloo. Shortly after the Civil War ended, a Waterloo druggist named Henry Welles collaborated with Union General John B. Murray to organize a local tribute for the war dead. The program included processions to and from the cemeteries, military music, speeches, wreaths, crosses, and bouquets.
“Of all the early such remembrances, Waterloo’s 1866 program most closely resembled Memorial Days to come. The pristine village of about 5,300 located only 40 miles from Fulton, in central New York’s Finger Lakes region, still follows its original Memorial Day model. “
In 1966, when Lyndon B. Johnson was President, he proclaimed Waterloo to be the official birthplace of Memorial Day. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Memorial Day, Waterloo opened to the public a 22 room Memorial Day Museum. Waterloo has the glory of officially holding the ‘first’ Memorial Day Program, but in reality, over two dozen communities in both the north and the south have claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.
“The Memorial Day Salute Committee is very aware of the program they are offering to the community. We have never treated it as a celebration, but a program designed to raise the community’s awareness of the importance of this day of remembrance.
“The Fulton Veterans Council has a more traditional program on the Monday (the official Memorial Day) of Memorial Day weekend in which they visit the cemeteries and place American flags on all known veteran’s graves, and honor the deceased veterans at the various monuments around our city. Flowers are set out and a wreath is thrown in the Oswego River to honor those who have died at sea.
“Recently, it was published that the World War II veterans are dying at the rate of nearly 1,000 a day. These men and women are at least 83 years old and most are older. Many newspapers mark the obituaries of veterans with an American flag. This is a very nice thing to do.
“Many years ago, before 1966, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day. This name comes from the fact that by the end of May, even in our northern climate, the flowers were in bloom and it was time to decorate the cemeteries.
“While the high death rate of the American Civil War (1860-65) was the initial reason for starting Memorial Day, this should not be the only reason for this holiday. Today, we should remember our deceased loved ones no matter if they are veterans or not.
“The Fulton Service Clubs and the Fulton Veteran’s Council have established Fulton’s way to remember this most important holiday. In the fall of each year, all of the Veterans’ organizations in the Fulton area choose a Veteran of the Year. This person is the Grand Marshall of the Memorial Day Parade. This year’s Grand Marshall is World War II veteran, Alfred Myhill.”