More than three dozen people gathered at Brownstown’s cemetery Sunday afternoon to remember the real purpose of the Memorial Day holiday.

Dr. Max Middendorf with American Legion Camp Jackson Post 112 opened the Brownstown post’s annual Memorial Day ceremony by talking about how for many the holiday has become a time for picnicking and barbecues and going to the Indianapolis 500 race for.

“But really we’re here for more serious business,” he said from the shelter house at Fairview Cemetery.

Middendorf praised the service of all veterans who have served and gone before us.

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“… and even the ones that are on duty at this time,” the veteran said.

“It seems like in the entire history of our country, we have always been at war with somebody; but when you have a difference of opinion and can’t work it out by a handshake, it seems like that’s how it goes,” he said.

Middendorf said veterans of all services, including the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, need to be remembered for their sacrifices along with another group.

“We have to give credit now to the Reserves for the freedom that we enjoy and security by having law and order in our own United States,” he said.

Middendorf turned the program over to Legion member Earl Wolka, who raised the flag from half-staff, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer by the Rev. Ron Johnson.

Middendorf then read the names of Legion members who had passed away this past year — Dean Zike, Bob Wayman, Barry Sommers and Lester Baker. Brownstown resident John Spurgeon then sang “America the Beautiful.”

Bill McCormick of Brownstown, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam War, was the featured speaker.

McCormick talked about the history of Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is a time for Americans to reflect on history and to reflect on their core values and the freedoms we have and the many who have died for those freedoms,” McCormick said. “Some of those were your friends. Some of those were your family.”

McCormick said Memorial Day traces its origins to 1863 in Columbus, Mississippi.

“A group of ladies were cleaning the cemetery for their loved ones who were lost, and they noticed there were Northern graves overgrown,” he said. “So they cleared those, put flowers on them. That was the beginning of the tradition.”

By 1890, Memorial Day was recognized in all Northern states.

McCormick said for decades, Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was celebrated with store closings and community gatherings for parades, speeches and other patriotic celebrations along with the laying of wreaths on the graves of veterans.

“Memorial (Day) meant more than ceremonies at the cemetery,” McCormick said.

After McCormick finished speaking, the ceremony ended with a rifle salute by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 honor guard from Seymour accompanied by members of the David Benton chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Dick Parman then played taps.

After the service, David Benton chapter members conducted a short service to place a plaque on the grave of former member Loren Noblitt. Chapter member John Sheets gave a brief history of the chapter and then discussed Noblitt’s contributions to the chapter.

Noblitt, who died Aug. 27, 2007, served in the U.S. Army Airborne during World War II and was a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.