Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice: Memorial Day 2020 will not feature traditional programs, but should offer an even greater reason to remember

by Heather Homewood, Director of Allamakee County Veterans Services

With Memorial Day deep in our hearts, we would like to solemnly take the time to honor the men and women that died while serving our country in the U.S. military, as the holiday was intended. This Memorial Day we may not see events and programs taking place because of public safety, but do not let that stop you from taking time personally to remember those who died while serving our nation.

If you pass by the monument on the courthouse lawn, you will see the names of those from Allamakee County who where killed in action or those who died while serving. These may have been family members, old classmates, or neighbors. These people were a part of our community and gave something to their community and their country that can never be repaid.

The greatest gift we can attempt to give back to these individuals, is to teach our children of their sacrifice and what it means for our freedoms today. Taking time to visit a local cemetery and seeing those local veterans’ graves marked with a flag can be a history lesson for children not in school at this time.

Not all of these veterans were killed in action, but they all have a very interesting story. It can be a great home research paper for a student to browse Allamakee County’s genealogy site and write a paper on one of our county’s many veterans. There is a lot of information on those killed in action, or for finding out how many World War II nurses we had in the county, or an abundance of other local heroes and heroines who served. That genealogy website can be found at:

This year marks 155 years since the Civil War ended in 1865. Although there are more than 20 different towns that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, or what was known as Decoration Day, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY as the official birthplace of Memorial Day as Waterloo had held its celebration in 1866. Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until it became a federal holiday in 1971.

May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, who was Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a Nationwide remembrance. His Memorial Day Order is still echoed in our local program each year.

Sometimes the true meaning of Memorial Day is lost in the picnics, camping and parades, but this year in particular I urge you to remember the sacrifices made, to remember the freedoms we have, and to think about standing behind our own country and building back up our communities and our own economies to ensure a stronger country and future for its generations to come. If this pandemic has taught us anything, hopefully it has taught us to support each other, even though we are kept apart.

I would like to take this time to thank those who are still heroes in their communities’ eyes and who continue to work hard every day to protect and provide for us all. Thank you to the medical professionals, law enforcement, farmers, truck drivers and transportation operators, grocery and gas station employees, food production workers and many more who work tirelessly as everyday heroes.

In closing, I would like to reinforce the meaning of Memorial Day and the intent of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice. May their memory not be forgotten as we get back on the river or enjoy our family picnics or camping. May we remember that our country might not be the country we know today if such men and women had not stood up to fight for and preserve our peace.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with the words of James Garfield:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

- James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868
Arlington National Cemetery

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