LAWRENCE CO. – For many Monday is just another holiday, a time for a picnic, cookout, or just time off from work. However, it is more than just a holiday.
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2021 will occur on Monday, May 31.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it 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. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
The Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.
By the late 1860’s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
Cemeteries throughout Lawrence County have those buried who served in the War, some killed in action, with others dying later in life long after their military service has ended.
The Old Union Cemetery in Fayetteville, Indiana, which was established in 1812, has veterans who served in the War of 1812, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War.
The American flags line those who served in cemeteries across the United States. Serving a reminder that the cost of freedom is not free at all.
Civil War –
There were a total of 618,222 men who died in the Civil War – 360,222 from the North, and 258,000 from the South, and is one of the greatest tolls of any war in American History.
Diarrhea and dysentery became the leading cause of death, with casualty figures showing that roughly twice as many soldiers died from disease as from the most frequent type of battle injury, the gunshot wound.
Here in Lawrence County, on the north side of Bedford was Camp Lawrence from 1861-1865 which was a Union Training Camp and a Confederate Prisoner of War Internment Camp. Buried in the Breckinridge Cemetery are many who served in the Civil War, 25 Confederate Prisoners of War, and 7 Union Soldiers who died at Camp Lawrence during the Civil War, whose names are unknown.
World War I – According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a total of 392,393 battle deaths were recorded for the three named wars: World War I, World War II, and Vietnam War. In World War I, there was a total of 53,402 Americans who lost their lives during the war.
World War II – There was a total of 291,557 American soldiers who died in that war.
Korean War – Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea.
Vietnam War – There were 47,434 American soldiers who died in action in Vietnam.
Desert Storm – A total of 143 American Soldiers were killed in action, including Bedford resident Cpl. Brian Lane.
War in Afghanistan – 1,833 were killed in this war.
Iraq War – 3,836 were killed in this war.
The monuments that stand at the Lawrence County courthouse list the names of those who were killed in action. Many more men and women may have died during these wars, however, the soldiers on the monuments actually died while fighting.
Last year, WBIW told the story of Wayne Gennette, who died in World War II, and is not on the memorial listing of those who died in the war from Lawrence County. It has since been discovered that Gennette was living in Canada at the time and not a resident of Lawrence County.
As we celebrate another Memorial Day, let us reflect on those who have served and gave their lives for the liberties that our country affords. May their memory still live on.