PRUNTYTOWN, W.Va. — Hundreds gathered on top of the hill at the West Virginia National Cemetery Sunday to remember the reason for the holiday weekend.
“It’s not a time for picnics. It’s not a time for the beach. It’s not a time for race car driving. This is a time to remember our fallen heroes,” Ralph Fox, American Legion State Vice Commander said during his speech at the 28th Annual Memorial Day Program in Pruntytown.
The ceremony –which included music from the Taylor County Middle School Band and All-County Chorus, a salute by the Taylor County Honor Guard and a presentation of wreaths from various veteran organizations– not only honored the approximately 5,500 veterans and family members buried at the cemetery, but those who lost their lives while serving from across the state.
“Through the years, there have been 70 from West Virginia who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor,” Fox said. “How proud does that make you? It should make you pretty damn proud.”
Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest times for the cemetery according to Keith Barnes, director of both the West Virginia National and Grafton National Cemetery.
He said they hope to help as many people find their loved ones as possible.
“The newer cemeteries will have a kiosk where electronically you can just type in a person’s, usually, just their last name and search their first name from there and we’ll even print you out a map with a description of the section and grave number. The old, old cemeteries, they might not have the kiosk, but they’re at least going to have a paper record, a burial ledger of all the people buried there.”
Memorial Day activities continue Monday during the 148th Memorial Day Program in the Grafton area, where the new cemetery director says he has noticed the people take the meaning of the holiday to heart.
“The Grafton Nation Cemetery just a few miles has the longest continuously running Memorial Day program,” Barnes said. “All the folks that you saw here today, when they were children, they marched in that parade. So, they grow up in an environment where there’s a lot of respect for veterans.”
Monday’s observance begins at 10 a.m. with a parade through Grafton.