Although Memorial Day has become synonymous with barbeques and cookouts, the municipalities of Aberdeen, Havre de Grace, Perryville and Port Deposit are determined to promote the original meaning, with the help of their respective local veterans organizations.
Each town is hosting a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 30, to honor members of the military who fought and died in various wars throughout American history.
The ceremony for Aberdeen will start at 11 a.m. at Veterans Park, hosted by the local American Legion Post 128, VFW Post 10028 and a local branch of the Catholic War Veterans.
"It's a day for them," legion post secretary Robert Hanson said, "people who have laid their life down on the altar of freedom."
The legion does not have enough volunteers for an honor guard, Hanson said, but there will be a wreath placing ceremony and a firing squad salute. Hanson will also serve as the officer of the day for the ceremony and escort the wreaths.
The keynote speaker will be Col. Andrew B. Nelson, the deputy garrison commander for transformation at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
For more information, contact American Legion Post 128, 410-272-9822.
Havre de Grace
Commander Tim Zeigler of the Joseph L. Davis Post 47 American Legion is organizing Havre de Grace's two ceremonies for Memorial Day.
The first ceremony will be held at Angel Hill Cemetery at 9 a.m., when wreaths will be placed at the late Sen. Millard Tydings' grave.
Sen. Tydings, Zeigler said, was the first commander of the post, which is named after the first soldier from Havre de Grace to die in World War I, Joseph L. Davis.
After the wreath placing, the next ceremony will be held in Tydings Park at 11 a.m. The legion has not announced a keynote speaker yet, but Mayor Wayne Dougherty is also expected to speak at the ceremony.
The mayor, city council and chief of police will all also take part in another ceremony, laying wreaths at the foot of the monuments at Tydings Park. Representatives from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans will also be there and participate in the legion's honor guard.
Zeigler said he has not been able to confirm any representatives from the Union, but would like to have them present, too.
After the ceremony, guests are invited back to the post, Zeigler said, for light fare, though the emphasis is on honoring past soldiers not Memorial Day cookouts.
"What it's meant to do is, you remember those who fought and died to give us the freedom to have those barbecues and cookouts," he said. "We need to remember those who can't be there because they are in a cemetery somewhere because they fought for our freedoms."
For more information, contact American Legion Post 47, 410-939-0234.
American Legion Post 135, headed by Commander James Tomkins, is sponsoring Perryville's Memorial Day ceremony, which will also take place Monday at 11 a.m. in front of the building.
Outside the building is a monument engraved with the names of fallen military members, legion secretary Maria Tomkins said, which will also be read aloud during the main ceremony.
In addition to the reading, there will be wreath placing by members of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion — three organizations that Post 135 represents.
The guest speaker has not been announced but as usual will be an active military major, Tomkins said, adding that the Perryville High School band and choir will participate in the activities. Local Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops will carry flags as well.
After the ceremony, light refreshments will be served.
Although Tomkins acknowledged that Memorial Day means different things to different people, she did say, "hopefully, it will be remembered why we celebrate it and that is because of the people who have given up their lives during service to our country."
For more information, contact American Legion Post 135, 410-642-2325.
VFW Jerry Skrivanek Post 8185 is hosting Port Deposit's Memorial Day events on Sunday, May 29, according to Town Administrator Erika Quesenbery. There will be two wreath laying ceremonies, one at 10 a.m. on Pvt. Jerry Skrivanek's grave at Harmony Chapel and the other at 11 a.m. at Memorial Plaza.
Skrivanek was the first soldier from Port Deposit to lose his life during World War II, she wrote in an e-mail.
After the ceremony there will be a noon luncheon at the VFW building. Also on Sunday, Mt. Zoar AME Church is having a free Memorial Day celebration barbecue at 2 p.m., but donations will be accepted for the cemetery committee.
In addition to those festivities, Asbury United Methodist Church is holding a Decoration/Memorial Day Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 28. Admission is free, Quesenbery wrote, but there will also be food for purchase, a bake sale, music and other events. The Water Witch Volunteer First Company will continue its carnival through Saturday as well, with fireworks tonight (Friday) and a matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Port Deposit may be hosting many barbecues and festivals this weekend, but Quesenbery is still well aware of the deeper meaning and purpose of Memorial Day, especially as the daughter of a veteran, L. Ray Quesenbery Jr,. and as the author of two books on local military history.
"…Memorial Day has special meaning to me, it is that ever-present reminder that freedom is never free," she wrote in an e-mail. " It isn't about picnics and gatherings, but about those who gave all, the last full measure."
For more information on these activities, contact the town hall, 410-378-2121.