Proud and Grateful Americans Gather to Honor Those Who Gave the Final Measure

Veterans and nonveterans alike watch the Memorial Day ceremony in Cape Charles. Photo by Stefanie Jackson.

By Stefanie Jackson – Commander Glenn Purvis, of the American Legion Northampton Post 56, led a Memorial Day ceremony in front of the Cape Charles War Veterans Memorial on Monday in remembrance and honor of all those who gave their lives in service to their country.

He recalled seeing five U.S. veterans, all Medal of Honor recipients, on television the previous evening and observed that “most of our Medal of Honor winners don’t have a chance to stand up there because they died.”

One posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor was 2nd Lt. John Hunter Wickersham, who fell on the battlefield in France during World War I.

According to Wickersham’s Medal of Honor citation, awarded in 1919, he was wounded in four places by the bursting of a high-explosive shell. Before he could receive aid, he tended to the wounds of another injured soldier, his orderly, and led on his platoon. His right hand was wounded, so he continued to fire his revolver with his left hand until he became exhausted from blood loss and died.

Purvis shared an excerpt of a poem about a mother, which Wickersham wrote in “a muddy foxhole” some time before his death:

“And fellows, she’s the hero of this great big ugly war. And her prayer is on the winds across the flat. And don’t you reckon maybe it’s her tears, and not the rain, that keeps the patter on your old tin hat?”

The poem “was about mothers, but it could just as easily been describing the heartache of wives, daughters, or sisters. It could easily have been described as the anguish of a father, a son, a brother, or a husband, who have felt the loss of one of the million American heroes who have died for this country while serving in the wars from the American Revolution to the war on terror,” Purvis said.

“It is for these heroes that we are here today. Lt. Wickersham made the supreme sacrifice in a war that America entered over a century ago. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Tragically, it wasn’t,” Purvis said.

A moment of silence was observed for all who died in defense of the nation.

During the Memorial Day event, Chaplain Chris Smith offered up prayers, Michael Flanagan led the singing of “God Bless America” and the national anthem, and Bill Carver played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

Purvis explained that according to U.S. flag etiquette, on Memorial Day, the flag remains at half staff until noon “to symbolize the remembrance and loss that all of our families and friends have suffered through the generations.”

He then announced it was time to raise the flag, “and we’re going to raise it because we are a great nation.”

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