CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – In honor of Memorial Day, the local chapters of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) and The Citadel Alumni Association (CAA) held a socially distanced wreath laying ceremony at The Citadel War Memorial to honor fallen heroes.
The tradition of decorating graves to honor lost loved ones is common on Memorial Day- originally known as Decoration Day- and has a long history in Charleston. Decoration Day began following the Civil War, which saw more lives lost than any other battle in the history of our nation, according to History.com. The Citadel notes that “one of the first recorded gatherings and laying of flowers on graves was done by a group of freed slaves right here in Charleston” in 1865, shortly after the Confederacy surrendered. Decoration Day eventually became known as Memorial Day, which was declared a federal holiday in 1971.
Over time, the tradition has endured, with a red white and blue wreath being placed at The Citadel War Memorial on Friday. Red represents valor and honor, white represents innocence and purity, and blue represents hope and perseverance.
Brigadier General Tom Dickinson, a retired member of the Army and member of the local AUSA chapter, participated in the ceremony. It was his class, The Citadel class of 1967, that envisioned the memorial. The memorial sits near the center of campus, next to Summerall Chapel. Inscribed in the black granite are the names of all Citadel alumni lost in conflict.
Citadel President, General Glenn Walters, said “The Citadel has a special connection with Memorial Day. Our graduates served in every conflict since the Mexican War and are serving on the front lines today. The Citadel War Memorial….takes on special significance each Memorial Day.”
Brig. Gen. Dickinson addressed a small group including Gen. Walters; Judith Ranger- daughter of Captain Terry Cordell (class of 1957) who was killed in action in Vietnam- representing America’s Gold Star Families; members of the AUSA and CAA; and a few Citadel staff members. He said:
“Today, we stand along the Avenue of Remembrance at The Citadel’s War Memorial. During this unprecedented time in American history, we remember the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Mariners who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We remember conflicts in which these alumni fought and are eternally honored at the Memorial. We invite everyone to enjoy the beauty of this monument here at The Citadel and pay tribute to the fallen.”
Gen. Walters acknowledged that they could not “gather to reflect as a group,” but encouraged everyone to “take a moment to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice and mark this Memorial Day in our own ways.”