Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony in Cleveland honors veterans killed in U.S. wars

Army Sgt. Scott Crandall places a wreath in memory of World War I during a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday at the Cleveland Civic Center.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Cleveland was a reminder that America is the Land of the Free because it first was the Home of the Brave. Since the Revolutionary War, more than 1.354 million American men and women have laid down their lives so the United States can continue to be a beacon of hope and opportunity and a symbol of freedom around the world.

At the Memorial Day ceremony held at the Cleveland Civic Center, wreaths were laid to honor the souls lost in wars or conflicts involving the United States since the 20th Century. Brad Denby, the former VFW 1839 Post Commander, led the event, which was organized by the VFW and the City of Cleveland with the help of City Chaplain Lance Blackwell.

“Memorial Day, which was originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to the United States of America,” Denby said. “Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.”

In 1873, New York became the first state to officially designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. Seventeen years later, in 1890, all other northern states began to recognize it, though southern states opted to recognize their dead on another date. Following World War I, Memorial Day became a time to remember all veterans, not just veterans of the Civil War and the holiday began to be celebrated in other states.

Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of every May, creating a three-day weekend for some Americans, particularly federal and state employees.

“Veterans are dying faster than ever before, roughly 22 a day to suicide. Agent Orange (used during the Vietnam War) and Gulf War Syndrome are still taking lives. They survived the wars only to lose the battle at home,” Denby said.

Every year during the Memorial Day ceremony in Cleveland, the service of one local member of the military is highlighted. This year, Denby chose Army Capt. and Vietnam veteran Thomas Arthur McAdams, whose family hailed from Devers, Texas.

McAdams, was the son of Army Col. James Orion “Mac” McAdams and Natalie McAdams of Devers. The senior McAdams served during World War II and remained a career Army officer after the war. Capt. Thomas McAdams died on Feb. 28, 1969, when he suffered mortal “wounds or effects of action, multiple fragmentation wounds,” near Xuan Loc, about 55 miles northeast of Saigon. His body is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Americans held captive or killed, and their bodies were never returned home to their families, were honored during the ceremony with a Missing Man table set up near the wreaths. As Denby explained the symbolism of each item on the table, a bell was rung by veteran Alton Faulkner.

“Let us never forget the cost of keeping our country free and the toll that it takes on the families of the veterans who have paid the ultimate price for our country,” Denby said. “God bless all of you and your families, and may God continue to bless America.”

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