Local 249 salutes veterans on Memorial Day
By Pat Hayes
Local 249’s Veteran’s Committee placed wreaths honoring the service of veterans at a number of sites around the Kansas City Metro on Memorial Day.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades.
According to historians, some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.
Committee members who took part in the wreath laying ceremonies included Hans Bebe, David Cox, Demetrius Camp, Glen Jackson and Dave Grant.
“COVID-19 put a damper on what we could do,” says Grant. “Our committee normally does a stand to help homeless veterans in June and we do visits at the Veteran’s Hospital, but, with the pandemic, we have to protect the health of the veterans, many of whom are elderly and more vulnerable.”
The committee laid wreaths at the Clay County Veterans Memorial located in Anita B. Gorman Park at North Oak Trafficway and Vivion Road. That memorial is dedicated to veterans of Clay County who were killed in action. It contains names of veterans from Clay County killed in action since the Civil War. The memorial features a bronze eagle statue, “Sovereign Wings.”
A wreath was also laid at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fountain located at Broadway and W. 42nd St. in Westport. The fountain and park dedicated September 6, 1986 features five rectangular, inter-connected pools of different sizes meant to represent America’s growing involvement in the war. A semi-circular memorial wall lists the names of the 451 Kansas Citians who died in the war.
Committee members laid a wreath at the Black Veterans Memorial located at 12th Street and The Paseo. The memorial, a polished granite monument, commemorates the service of black veterans throughout United States history.
Korean War veterans were also honored with a wreath laying ceremony at the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial located in Washington Square Park at Pershing and Main near Crown Center. Some 37,000 America soldiers and 3,100 United Nations soldiers lost their lives in the Korean War and 8,000 are still listed as missing in action. An additional 103,000 Americans were wounded and many still receive medical care in VA Medical Centers across the country.
Wreaths were also laid at the World War 1 stature honoring veterans of the war at the Ray County Courthouse in Richmond and at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetary in Higginsville. The cemetery has an approximate capacity of 24,000 gravesites for our veterans and their spouses.
As the COVID-19 pandemic loosens it’s grip on the nation, the Local 249 Veteran’s Committee is making plans to continue its work serving area veterans. The committee raffled off two shotguns in June to raise funds for active members of the military and veterans.
The committee is also sponsoring, with other Local 249 standing committees a fireworks tent located in the parking lot of the union hall to raise funds for the union’s charitable and community service work.