The second Memorial Day event that I attended yesterday took place at Mount Hope Cemetery. I had never before visited this history-filled municipal cemetery.
Mount Hope is where many of San Diego’s early residents are buried. It’s hilly and sprawling, with thousands of scattered headstones and monuments. Thousands of names are eternally engraved.
The dignified Memorial Day ceremony was held atop GAR Hill. I learned that G.A.R. stands for Grand Army of the Republic. The fraternal organization is composed of veterans who fought on the Union side during the American Civil War. On grassy GAR Hill rest many Union soldiers who fought bravely.
The annual event, I also learned, is organized by both the Sons and Daughters of Union Veterans, and Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy. Over a thousand Civil War veterans are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Yesterday afternoon I stood and watched a moving tribute to those who had fought in the war that ended slavery. Some of the participants wore Civil War uniforms and period dress. History came to life with eloquent words of remembrance, and the singing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Amazing Grace. Several speakers recalled the men who fought, their sacrifices, and the triumph of liberty. Our current times were also addressed. It is necessary to stay firm in the defense of freedom.
This year the ceremony honored one Civil War soldier in particular: Henry Neal Fletcher, 4th Corporal, Company G, 3rd Iowa Cavalry. He fought for the Union. Both of his grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War. From them he learned how freedom was won. He died a beloved member of the San Diego community.
The idea for Memorial Day is thought to have come from the tradition of decorating soldier’s graves in late spring with flowers, a custom that predated the Civil War. During the war, with so many dead, the practice became very common. The tradition finally became formalized, and known as Decoration Day.
On this Memorial Day, atop a quiet hill, I saw many flags decorating the graves of soldiers.