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  Alone At Boardman Cemetery, Mark Luke Kept Tradition Alive With Memorial Day Address  
  May 28, 2020 Edition  
Mark Luke
     For the first time in 116 years, there was no Memorial Day Parade in Boardman Township. This year’s annual parade, as well as observance in Boardman Park, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
      Instead, traffic flowed along Market St. to Rt. 224, and cars sped down the roadway, passed Boardman Park, whose entrance is graced by Olde St. James Church, one of the oldest Episcopalian church buildings east of the Mississippi River, dating back to the early 1820’s.
      In Memorial Day’s of the past, that parade time and moments in Boardman Park, were times for fellowship, now regulated by mandates of social distancing.
      Until the time that Boardman Park was developed in the late 1940’s, Boardman’s annual Memorial Day parade began at what is now Center Intermediate School and ended at Boardman Cemetery, where ice cream and fellowship was the feature of the day.
      Longtime Master of Ceremonies for the annual Memorial Day observances, Mark Luke, president of the Boardman Kiwanis Club, wasn’t about to let Boardman Township’s longtime Memorial Day traditions be completely squaffled by the pandemic.
      Promptly at 10:00 a.m., he stood alone in Boardman Cemetery where the township’s 116th annual Memorial Day address was delivered via a conference call. His address was followed by a ‘properly distanced’ call for remembrance by Boardman Local Schools band and music teacher Tim Tuite.
      He spearheaded an outdoor community wide performance in honor of Memorial Day--the likes of which have never happened before-- one instrument at a time.
      He’s gathered his troops...About a thousand Boardman band students from fifth to 12th grade, and asked them to go to their porch, their driveway, or their deck at noon on Memorial Day, May 25 and play taps. Then, he extended the idea to Boardman’s choral music department, and now hundreds of Spartan singers intend to follow taps by singing the National Anthem from their front yards.
      Tuite has pushed the idea through social media, to reach out to other valley band directors and music teachers, as well as music directors across the nation.
      The text of Mark Luke’s Memorial Day address follows:
      I stand here today at Boardman Cemetery, the sight of the first Boardman Decoration Day Ceremony, held on May 30, 1904.
      I ask you now to please stand if you are able, face an American Flag, and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance...
      “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
      We will now read an Invocation written by our friend, Lauren Johnson. Lauren is the daughter of Rev. Larry and Beverly Johnson. Larry was a longtime Pastor, the Boardman Police Department Chaplain, and a Vietnam veteran. Since her father’s passing in 2016 and in her father’s memory, Lauren accepted the call to continue writing the weekly Boardman News column started by her father, entitled Open Your Bible.
      Let us bow our heads in Prayer…
      Lord God, we come before You on this Memorial Day to thank You for Your mercy, to praise You for Your unending love and to humble ourselves before Your throne. Your Word says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Our prayer today is that we would humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways and that You would heal our land. During times like these, we need to focus on You and trust that You will heal our land and continue to bless this land as You always have. We remember and thank those that gave their lives for this nation. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice and in sincere gratitude, we remember those lives lost and the price that has been paid for this nation’s freedom. May we never take for granted another day, another hour, another minute. We continue to pray for those currently serving and may You continue to bless this nation now and forever.
      In Your Holy Name we pray, Amen.
      Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, and is a day of mourning and remembrance for those who have died in our Nation’s service.
      On May 5, 1868, three years after the United States Civil War had ended, General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order 11 - establishing May 30th as “Decoration Day” – a day for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It is believed the date was chosen, because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. The concept was endorsed by the United States Congress in 1871.
      Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors, and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
      Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers, who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected, because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.
      The establishment of Decoration Day has a direct connection to the Mahoning Valley. General Logan’s only son, John A. Logan, Jr., met a Youngstown woman named Edith Andrews – of the prominent Youngstown steelmaking family. They married and made their home in Youngstown, living here in the 1890’s. Like his father- John, Jr. was a soldier of distinction – his military service included the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. During that war, Maj. Logan was killed in action on Nov. 11, 1899 at San Jacinto, Philippines and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is buried in Youngstown’s Oak Hill Cemetery marked by a white marble headstone with gold engravings - signifying those soldiers awarded America’s highest recognition for valor.
      By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30th throughout the nation. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all America’s wars.
      In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, although it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.
      Boardman Township
      Decration Day and Memorial Day History
       •May 30, 1904 first Decoration Day Ceremony, held at Boardman Cemetery.
       •1951 (earliest record found) - Ceremony held at Boardman High School (now Center Intermediate School), then a Parade to Boardman Cemetery and a Prayer Service.
       •As Boardman’s population grew, the parade and Ceremony also grew larger. In the early 1970’s the Ceremony was moved to Boardman Park’s Memorial Flagpole along the main drive. The parade route ended in the park.
       •After construction was completed, the ceremony was moved to Boardman Park’s Maag Outdoor Amphitheater.
      Decoration Day and Memorial Day activities organizers and supporters include: Boardman Ex-Servicemen’s Club, American Legion Posts 593 and 565, Patsy Ann Zabel, the Boardman Memorial Day Association, Boardman Township, Schools and Park; Mark Westerman, Jack Darnell, Claude Vasu, Walter Daub, Dallas Heston, Ann Taylor, Paul Luke, Tom Groth, Dan Slagle, John Darnell, John Finley, Tom Ruggeri, George Grim, George Economus, Bill Becherer, Lt. Col. Bill Moss, Earl Coffin and Stephanie Landers. Veteran Don Medicus was the Parade’s Honorary Colors Bearer for many years.
      Speakers: historically, most speakers were local Clergy. In more recent years veterans have been the speakers.
      Speakers military service: both peacetime and wartime; including – WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, War in Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom.
      In December of 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act”, which encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, for a minute of silence, to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.
      Throughout our history – a special breed of individual has always stepped forward to protect the sovereignty of our nation, and our way of life. Many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice – surrendering their lives upon the alter of freedom. To those of you with us listening today who served, or are serving our Nation, and to those who are no longer with us - We, who now live in this greatest country in the world, say – THANK YOU!
      Special thanks to the Boardman Township Maintenance Staff who have prepared Boardman Cemetery into such wonderful condition – and thank you to the residents and taxpayers of Boardman Township for their support of our Community.
      Special thanks to our Boardman Kiwanis Memorial Day Committee: Stephanie Landers, Roy Wright, Earl Coffin and Matt Cramer.
      Normally at this time in our program we enjoy our incomparable Boardman High School Wind Ensemble playing our National Anthem, a moving Memorial Day Speaker, the playing of the Armed Forces Salute - with Veterans gathering around the flagpole, the laying of the Memorial Wreathes, a rifle salute, and the playing of Taps. Then, as the Wind Ensemble plays their rousing rendition John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, scout troops lead the attendees in handshake greetings of thankfulness to each Veteran attending.
      Well, our Memorial Day this year is certainly different than previous years. However, no more of a struggle or challenge than any Veteran ever faced to preserve our freedoms to gather in this way this year.
      And to that end, we look forward to the 2021 Memorial Day Breakfast, Parade and Ceremony. And returning to our beautiful Boardman Park. Our speakers from this year have already committed to speak next year... it will be a different format than previous years, as we will have two Boardman families share with us the impact of losing a family member in military service. We look forward to a message from both the Clark and Eisenbraun families.
      Recently, I was contacted by Boardman Schools Assistant Band Director, Mr. Tim Tuite. He has organized Boardman students, and invites all of you to gather outside your homes today at NOON – where you may hear band member students playing Taps... afterward, please join choir members in signing our National Anthem. Sincere thanks to Tim, and all of our student musicians and singers.
      I don’t have a specific speech for today, but I do have two things for you to ponder: One – a question...WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIAL DAY MEMORIES...? Veterans, Freedoms, Duty, Honor, Courage; learning the meaning of this National Day of Mourning; childhood memories; parades; placing flags on graves at cemeteries; Ceremonies with Veteran or Clergy speakers... our three previous Memorial Day Ceremony speakers: Jim Freeze, Paul Poulas and Christopher Dobozy – all combat Veterans, made special mention by name, of the brothers in arms in their respective units that did not return from combat.
      I challenge you to take time today to reflect upon your Memorial Day memories. And to thank those you have known, and those you have never known, for your memories and Freedoms.
      Second, I will read what has become known as the ‘Bixby letter’. A letter of condolence from President Abraham Lincoln, delivered to Mrs. Lydia Bixby on November 25, 1864:
      Executive Mansion,
      Washington, Nov. 21, 1864
      Dear Madam,
      I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
      I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
      I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.
      Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
      A. Lincoln
      In closing: the changes in our world today are temporary – THIS Memorial Day tradition continues. Our Nation has faced many crises in its history – from threats both foreign and domestic – we approach them all with the same spirit and vigor – as free, optimistic, resilient, problem solving Americans.
      We owe a debt of thankful vigilance to our Nation’s founders, and our Veteran’s both lost and living to preserve this Constitutional Republic, in which we have been so very privileged and Blessed - to be able to live, gather, speak, defend, and Worship.
      God Bless you all - God Bless America - and let us be thankful, free Americans on Memorial Day.
      Thank you for the opportunity to bring this message to you - We are adjourned.
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