OCEAN CITY — It’s good to enjoy your Memorial Day long weekend, veterans told a crowd of about 500 at Veterans Memorial Park in Ocean City on Monday.
“It’s good to be with your family. It’s part of the freedom that so many died for,” said Michael Morrissey, the commander of VFW Post 6650. “However, when you enjoy that first hot dog or burger, or that first cold beer, it would be a a good time to reflect with your family and take time to remember families who miss a loved one at their traditional festivals.”
He and Bob Marzulli, the commanding officer of American Legion Post 524, thanked the large crowd who took time out of a near-perfect beach day to honor the reason for the party in a service that included singing, prayers and traditions, including the laying of a wreath in front of the city war memorial between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
The event was one of dozens planned in communities across the region to mark the day, which began in the 19th century as Decoration Day in remembrance of those who died in the Civil War. While the long weekend schedule made it the unofficial start of summer on the shore, the grim reality of the fight was not forgotten during the morning ceremony.
People also read…
Marzulli read a list of Ocean City residents killed in action, beginning with World War I and continuing on the much longer list from World War II. A bell rang with each name. Speakers named US service members lost in Korea and Afghanistan, and spoke of the long black wall in Washington, DC, which names those killed in Vietnam.
Morrisey said 7,000 American men and women have died fighting the Global War on Terror.
“Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades, although there is nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating the American way of life. Memorial Day is about gratitude and remembrance,” Marzulli said. “It’s about honoring the men and women who made it possible for us to come together here today in peace.”
Rows of folding chairs were laid out on the grass, amidst an anchor and a Navy artillery piece that stand in the park. Bleachers stood behind these, with many more people choosing to line up in the shade of the trees in the park, close enough to hear the loudspeakers.
Many parts of the event have been part of the Ocean City observance for many years, including the participation of veterans while the song associated with their branch of the service is played.
Jack Hagan, the American Legion Station Warrant Officer, spoke about prisoners of war and missing in action. Ed Ferraro, the VFW station chaplain, gave the invocation to begin the service, and Larry Kelly of the American Legion offered the blessing.
Greg Murphy of Buglers Across America, tap danced. There were two singers, Morgan Murphy, who sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of the event, and Natalie Ragazzo, who sang “God Bless America” to close it.
A line of Ocean City police and firefighters stood at attention at the rear of the crowd, under a huge American flag hanging from a fire truck ladder, and members of the city council and other elected officials were present.
Mayor Jay Gillian praised local veterans organizations and spoke about the start of a daily flag raising on the boardwalk, which will take place at 9 a.m. daily this summer.
He also spoke about the number of veteran suicides each year and called for better education so that a new generation knows the story.
“Because if you don’t know where you come from, it’s all lost,” he said. He asked participants to keep in mind those who need their help.
Contact Bill Barlow: