Memorial Day honors many in different ways


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United States Army First Lt. Todd Weaver hugs his wife, Emma, and their baby, Kiley, on the day he departed for Afghanistan. The young soldier, son of Jeanne and Donn Weaver, was killed in combat Sept. 9, 2010. His parents have made it their goal to help other Americans understand the price some pay for freedom.

Viera Voice Courtesy of Donn Weaver

 

Memorial Day has always been significant for Donn Weaver, special projects coordinator for the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center.

“As a son of a World War II veteran, an Army veteran myself and father of four, Memorial Day was important to me growing up in Brevard and during my professional life,” he said.

On Memorial Day mornings, Weaver would take his family to ceremonies at veterans’ cemeteries so his children would learn about the high cost of freedom. In the afternoons, a family picnic rounded out the special day.

After Sept. 9, 2010, however, Memorial Day changed dramatically for the Weavers. That day, his youngest son, United States Army First Lt. Todd Weaver, was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

“From that date, it becomes for me and our family a time to make sure other Americans understand the price of freedom and remember all the fallen who have given their full measure to our country,” Weaver said.

Memorial Day has unfortunately for many become just another holiday to go visit theme parks or relax at the beach or pool, but the holiday has always had a somber meaning since its inception three years after the Civil War. On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic established a day to place flowers on the graves of the war dead. The date was chosen because spring flowers were in bloom.

The first large formal observance of the day was held in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, although Congress and President Lyndon Johnson later declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day, where a ceremony on May 5, 1866 honored the local soldiers.

After World War I, the holiday was expanded to honor all those who had died in any American War. The day was declared a national holiday in 1971.

Local observances of Memorial Day span a range of activities from parades in downtown Melbourne and Rockledge, a cookout at McLarty Park in Rockledge, a special day at Liberty Bell Memorial Museum and a formal celebration that includes a 21-gun salute, taps and period costumes at Riverfront Park in Cocoa Village.

This Memorial Day, Weaver and his wife, Jeanne, will take part at the 9 a.m. event at the Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island before heading to Cape Canaveral Cemetery to place a wreath representing Gold Star Families later in the morning. He expects that 500 people will be at each location to reaffirm how grateful they are to be Americans.

“We are free because millions of veterans since 1776 have been willing to give all if their name was called,” Weaver said.