In a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, a handful of aging veterans marched with U.S. and military flags to lead May 29’s parade on Granville’s Broadway.
They were followed by Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Granville High School Marching Band, a couple of police cruisers, a fire truck and an ambulance.
“That was a pretty short parade,” said a woman standing at the curb in front of the Granville Public Library.
And then, she watched in amazement as everyone around her gathered up their children and folding chairs and spilled into the street.
This tribute that started so small quickly swelled to hundreds, as almost everyone who had come to watch the parade became part of it.
They marched east on Broadway, took a right on South Pearl Street and a left on East Maple Street to Maple Grove Cemetery, where they took part in Granville’s 150th commemoration of Memorial Day.
An enduring scene unfolded there, as it has for decades in Granville: Public officials greeted the crowd and Granville High School graduate Caroline Comisford belted out a goosebump-inducing rendition of the national anthem.
Pastor Tom Pound, of Spring Hills Baptist Church, gave the invocation, and Mayor Melissa Hartfield led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Katelyn Miller read Maj. Gen. John A. Logan’s 1868 order declaring the 30th day of May as a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives in service to their country. And then Miller stepped from the podium to play her flute with the high school band.
Army Veteran John Pitcock read the final roll call of the 14 Granville area veterans who had died since the last Memorial Day.
Paul Wilson, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of the Licking County Veterans’ Service Commission, paid tribute to prisoners of war and those who went missing in action. Spencer Beckett, who will be a senior at Granville High School, read the Gettysburg Address.
The crowd sang “America the Beautiful” with the accompaniment of the high school band and the Land of Legend Chorus.
The chorus also performed the Armed Forces Medley, which inspired veterans from each military branch to stand, salute or hold up a flag.
Ryan Dickerson, 10 days out of military school as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, was the featured speaker. He is a 2018 Granville High School graduate and a Miami University graduate.
He reminded the crowd of the key difference between Memorial Day and all other days honoring those who serve in the military, such as Veterans Day. This day, he said, “calls upon all of us to reflect upon and remember … those who, at a time of their country’s need, answered their nation’s call” and sacrificed their lives.
Dickerson said they served for many reasons, but chief among them is the freedom Americans enjoy.
“Freedom comes with a cost,” he said, noting that the biggest price is paid by those who die in service to the U.S.
He concluded by paying tribute to one who served and survived the battlefields of Europe — Arnie Joseph, who was drafted in 1945 and is the last of Granville’s World War II veterans.
“As you leave this place to celebrate the start of summer, as we all should, remember those who gave their lives for their country,” Dickerson said.
After a benediction, the American Legion Post 398 Color Guard fired a rifle salute, Nathan Carson and Sophie Lossing of the high school band played taps, and the Sons of the American Revolution raised the flag from half-staff.
In dismissing the crowd at the conclusion of the event, Hartfield said, “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and say how much they appreciate this event, among all of the events in Granville, for its respect and reverence.”
Alan Miller writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is funded in part by the Mellon Foundation. The group can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.