Memorial Day weekend, viewed by many as the unofficial start of summer, is often remembered for its cookouts, road trips, and being an extra-long weekend. To those that remember, however, there is one other thing that it commemorates: those that gave their lives in service to the nation. While Veteran’s Day in November is focused on honoring our vets that are still among the living, Memorial Day remembers those that are gone, and the town of Montross, as well as plenty of others on the Northern Neck, made it clear that they remembered those that did not make it back, hosting a ceremony at the old courthouse square.
There were several speakers, primarily from the American Legion, but the highlight was a speech from Congressman Rob Wittman, a native of not just Westmoreland County, but Montross itself. His speech not only gave a nod and thanks to the troops that had given their all, but also to the Commonwealth of Virginia, its history, and its people.
“This is what our nation is really all about,” Wittman stated, “and to take the time today to remember those that have given all for their nation, right here in Westmoreland County, what I call the Cradle of Democracy, and the patriots back in the day that founded the principles for our government.”
Larry and Margaret Greene spoke next, explaining that a table nearby had been set for one, bearing a glass of water, a dish of lemons, salt, and roses. Known as the Missing Man Table, it is a symbol for those that are still listed as “missing in action.” The Greenes would then take turns explaining each facet of the table and its décor. Everything about it is a symbol, from the white tablecloth for the missing soldier’s intentions to the overturned glass for a drink they may never have. Names of Virginians still missing were then read.
Once the dedication of the table was finished, names were read of those in the Northern Neck that had fought for our nation and died across all the major wars of the 20th Century, starting with World War I and going all the way to Vietnam. With that concluded, everyone stood for “Taps” before a closing prayer was conducted by Bobby Greene, who had a fair bit to say before starting.
“The significance of hearing all those names, for those of us lived in those days, is that we lived with those people, grew up with them, went to church with them, and we want to always remember them,” he stated, “The greatest pain of someone who lost a loved one, especially in combat, is that their loved one will be forgotten.”
Afterwards came a round of prayer. Flags across the country were set to half-staff until noon, whereupon they went back up to full mast. With the troops remembered, people could now go and enjoy the company and cookouts that have been made possible by the sacrifice of our troops.