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Date of Issue: May 21, 2008

Private, public remembrances mark Memorial Day

The nation will observe Memorial Day on Monday, May 26. Several years ago a White House commission urged people to observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m., in addition to other traditions on the day.

Most federal, state and local government offices will be closed for the holiday, including Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria city halls. Banks and public schools also will close for the day.

In Manatee County, a formal observance of Memorial Day will take place at 9 a.m. May 26 with the laying of wreaths, a 21-gun salute and speeches at Veterans Memorial Park on the riverfront behind Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton.

Also, the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24, 2000 75th Street W., Bradenton, will host a tribute beginning at 1 p.m. that includes lunch and live music.

Memorial Day originally was called Decoration Day and is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the nation’s service. President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day, but many believe the day originated in the South during the Civil War.

The first known proclamation for Memorial Day was issued May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first official observance took place May 30, 1868, with the placing of flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Logan designated a day for “the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance, no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

The general also wrote, “It is the purpose of the commander-in-chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.”

The day originally was to honor the fallen fighters in the Civil War, but it has long since honored the dead of all the nation’s wars - 1.2 million in the American Revolution, the Battle of 1812, the Indian Wars, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Islanders served in the campaigns of this and the last century. Papers collected in a white binder on a shelf at the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, introduce the interested to the stories of doughboy Harry McCullum who served in France during World War II; of Art Samson, who recalled the rockets firing overhead as he sailed to France in August 1945; of tank commander Henry Corsi, the only non-commissioned officer to attend the Nuremberg Trials.

There are clips from the Stars and Stripes. There are snips of headlines and photographs - ranging from unidentified troops to Adolf Hitler.

The binder also contains recollections of Island life during war years, especially World War II, when what is now the Island Players theater housed the community hall. The building at Gulf and Pine in Anna Maria became a makeshift USO in the mid-1940s, where Islanders gathered to serve refreshments to the soldiers who served at the radar base on the Island’s north end.

“There were about a dozen men at the base,” Lorna Schiek told an interviewer in the 1940s. “They lived in houses along Gulf Drive. Some were married and their wives were with them. Island residents would provide refreshments on weekends at the community hall.”