Fallen veterans honored at Coal City Memorial Day service

May 30—It was a sunny cloudless morning as more than 50 gathered Monday at the Raleigh County Veterans War Memorial in Coal City for a Memorial Day service to honor and remember those who gave their lives while serving in the United States armed forces.

The ceremony was led by Kevin Meadows, who serves as the commander of both the West Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) District 5 and the Sophia VFW Post 4326.

Meadows, who served as an Army medic, said he hopes people recognize the significance of Memorial Day, which is more than just a chance to be off from work and school or relax at the pool.

“We’re not opposed to people having fun, having a good time. The weather’s great. By all means, get out and do that,” he said. “But please, take a little bit of time out of your day to remember.” the real reason for this holiday. “

While every day feels like Memorial Day to Meadows, when the official holiday rolls around, he said the lives of those he served with who didn’t make it home are even more on his mind.

“There are several guys that I served with that did not get to come home and they’re with me always, not just today,” he said.

During the ceremony Monday, Meadows and others from the VFW spoke about the history of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, and how it came to be a federal holiday in the US

Larry Rice, who will replace Meadows as the District 5 commander beginning in 2023, said Memorial Day originally began as a way to honor those who lost their lives in the Civil War but has since grown to serve as a remembrance for all US military members who died while serving their country.

“A lot of people today are out on the lakes, a swimming pool or somewhere enjoying this day because of our comrades who have fallen,” Rice said. “So whenever you look back today, remember, there were soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guard, and Marines, who gave their all for us to be able to congregate today for our remembrance of them. “

Also in attendance at Monday’s event was Corrina Boggess, the senior vice commander for the VFW Department of West Virginia.

Boggess said attending remembrance ceremonies like the one in Coal City is one of the many ways people can honor and remember those who have died.

“Public displays of patriotism are essential if the notion of remembering war dead is to be instilled in our youth,” she said. “As older war veterans begin to disappear from society’s landscape, there are fewer and fewer standard bearers left to carry the torch.” of remembrance. Such traditions will only live on if there is a vibrant movement to which that torch can be passed. “

On this day, Boggess said she is reminded of her friend John Smith Manchester, who died 47 years ago at the age of 22 in Vietnam.

Boggess said she served with him as first lieutenants and platoon leaders in Charlie Company, Second Battalion, Third Infantry, Old Guard, 199th Light Infantry Brigade.

She added that she regularly visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, on Memorial Day to visit her friend.

“I don’t know if he can hear me, but I talked to him as though he can in the kind of crude language that infantry soldiers use to talk to each other,” Boggess said. “I always wonder if anyone else else ever comes. to talk to him. I’m 70 now, and I wonder how many more years I would have to visit with him and let him know that I still remember him. “

The Memorial Day ceremony concluded with the laying of wreaths on each of the four sides of the Veterans War Memorial as well as in front of other plaques.

“On each side there are panels honoring Korea, Vietnam, World War II (and) World War I. We have a monument for the war on terror and the (Disabled American Veterans) also has a monument here as well.”

Meadows said the monument was originally built in 2004 and he, along with his stepfather, assisted in its construction.

“My stepfather and I both helped out with it. He laid most of the block himself,” Meadows said.

Meadows’ wife Carol said her husband has made it a point to visit or lead a ceremony at the Veterans War Memorial in Coal City for the past 15 years.

“Our family just lives down the road and we came by one year … and there was a gentleman sitting here alone; he had lost a son and he was crying,” Carol said. “And Kevin (Meadows) vowed that he would never miss another one. So we’ve been doing this about 15 years now. “

While Meadows said he and his wife are sometimes the only people who show up some years on Memorial Day, that does not make the day or his vow to be present any less important.

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