Memorial Day through time

A flag is folded at the 2018 Memorial Day service at the American Legion Post 326 in Lake Placid. (News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Memorial Day 1942

Memorial Day this year will mean more to us. Because on May 30, 1942, it brought home to us the fact that our men and boys are again dying in wars.

Our memories might have become a bit hazy in the intervening years since the first world war and few remember much of the wars before that although we still honor the graves of all war dead no matter how far back they fell in battle. Only a fraction of the casualties already incurred in the United States forces in the current war have yet been reported as the nature of the tragedies in the Phillipines, Corregidor and Bataan hinders an accurate reporting of losses of our men who now find their graves on foreign soil or in foreign waters. The mourning tomorrow will not be like the mourning a year from tomorrow when the full shock of our losses has been imprinted on our minds and hearts. So while we are paying tribute to those long dead, let us add an urgent prayer to help the parents and the loved ones who must suffer greatly before this turmoil is over.

The men who have died under our flag would have it so.

Memorial Day 1946

In the childhood days of some of us, May 30 was more generally known as “Decoration Day.”

On that day, involving the United States, wars were generally relegated in our thoughts to the past. Future wars were not considered within the realm of possibility or of our imagination. We believed then that people were civilized. We had ideals; ideals which were rudely shattered by world war 1 and world war 2.

On “Decoration Day” both young and old then visited the cemeteries, placing flowers on the graves of the known and unknown. Over the graves of those who had died thru the strife of the Civil and Spanish wars, a volley was fired, followed by the solemn sounding of the taps. This was even then a sober occasion.

Now there are more graves to “decorate”; several million more soldiers dead in the world today. In the formal cemeteries more flags will be placed and suitable ceremonies held. But at the last resting places of thousands there will be no marks to indicate the spots, no dear ones to plant lovingly the flowers of memory. These are the graves of the “unknown soldiers” lying in the thick of the jungle and in more remote areas elsewhere.

Memorial Day 2024

As we put Memorial Day in perspective by reprinting the Lake Placid News editorials from 1942 and 1946 — the beginning and the end of World War II — we’re reminding citizens that it’s not only the men who have fought for the U.S. and died in battle; there have been and continue to be women serving as soldiers, nurses, doctors, etc.

Furthermore, the battles have piled up since 1946, and we continue to fight wars across the world in the name of our country. Whether we agree with the politics or not, we owe it to our men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces to honor them every Memorial Day by decorating their graves, remembering their lives and thanking them for their service and sacrifices.

Memorial Day services have changed over the years in Lake Placid, but it’s always been a holiday celebrated by the entire community.

Before the first world war, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake alternated hosting Memorial Day observances, honoring the Grand Army of the Republic veterans from the U.S. Civil War. In 1915, the News reported that fewer than 20 local G.A.R. vets were left to answer the roll call.

Even as early as 1919 — during the first Decoration Day remembrance after the first world war — young community members participated in the parade, with returning soldiers being joined by Camp Fire Girls and Boy Scouts.

Water rites for sailors and marines used to be conducted in Mirror Lake, with flowers or wreaths placed on the surface, first on the eastern shore and then at the war memorial at the Adirondack Community Church after it was erected in 1929.

Hats off to American Legion Post 326 for conducting services each Memorial Day and lowering and raising flags around the community to honor local veterans who have passed on.

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