“Arlington is where Memorial Day officially began, the place where it never ends,” the writer Jim Sheeler wrote in “Final Salute.” He must not know about Flagler County.
One of these days perhaps Flagler County and its cities will join together in the spirit of Memorial Day and provide one, unified ceremony representative of all for all, without much concern for the one-upmanship of turf, or perhaps annually rotate the ceremony between the three of them. That day is not yet upon us. So Palm Coast, Flagler County and Flagler Beach will each have their own ceremony Monday, May 30, stretching over half the day and within a radius of a few miles–from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In Palm Coast, the ceremony begins at 8 a.m. at Heroes Memorial Park, 2860 Palm Coast Pkwy. NW, just west of the county public library. (Parking is available along Corporate Drive and at the Library.) Guest speakers at the ceremony will be Florida Rep. Paul Renner of District 24, Commandant Anthony D. Martinez of Marine Corps League Detachment 876, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts.
The presentation of colors will be done by Ancient City Pipes and Drums and the Palm Coast Fire Department Honor Guard. Ancient City Pipes and Drums will perform Amazing Grace. Palm Coast resident Mary Giraulo, a member of the city’s beautification advisory committee, will sing The Star-Spangled Banner. A Memorial Wreath presentation will be done by local veterans organizations. The Community Chorus of Palm Coast will also perform.
In case of rain, the program will be moved to Palm Coast Fire Station 21 at 9 Corporate Drive.
Next up will be Flagler County government’s ceremony at 10 a.m. in front of the Government Services Building, which is rimmed with parking space. The keynote speaker will be Army Major Thomas K. Hall, Senior Army Instructor and Rifle Team Coach at Matanzas High School. Hall served as the Secretary of the General Staff for the Assistant Commandant of the US Army Command and General Staff College. He was a Battery Commander in the 1st Battalion 77th Field Artillery which was in direct support of the 194th Armor Brigade.
Golden Sands, the local chapter of the Girl Scouts of America, will place a Daisy Wreath at the memorial in front of the Government Services Building. Numerous groups are expected to participate, among them American Legion Post 115, Amvets Post 113, DAV Chapter 86, Italian American War Veterans Post 7, Jewish War Veterans Post 300, Marine Corps League 876, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Flagler County Veterans Service Office, VFW Post 8696, and the Knights of Columbus 2264 Color Corps.
In Flagler Beach, the Memorial Day Tribute begins at 1 p.m. at Veterans Park (on State Road A1A and SR100) with a welcome from Commander George Schnaudigel of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 86 in Flagler Beach, the presentation of colors by Matanzas High School’s JROTC students, the National Anthem, a prayer, and introduction by Mayor Linda Provencher. Sisco Deen of the Flagler County Historical Society will speak, as will Commission Chairperson Jane Mealy, who’ll present a dedication from the Flagler Beach Women’s Club.
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the years following the Civil War, with “decoration” representing the garlanding of fallen soldiers’ graves in flowers and memorabilia, and the recitation of prayers, poems and remembrances at cemeteries across the nation. Among those, often recited on the occasion, was Walt Whitman’s “Dirge for Two Veterans.” (See the poem below.) The day was not officially known as Decoration Day until 1868. The commemoration evolved into Memorial Day after World War I, though it was not until 1968 that Congress established the last Monday in May as the official annual observance.
Walt Whitman: Dirge for Two Veterans
The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropped together,
And the double grave awaits them.)
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined,
(‘Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)
O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.
(From “Leaves of Grass.”)