On this Memorial Day weekend, a special memory comes to mind that epitomizes the meaning of the day.
It was Memorial Day in 2009 in the central Shenandoah Valley. My sister and I had made a last-minute trip to the local Food Lion in Staunton for a forgotten cookout item when now-retired manager Dan Pritchett’s voice came over the intercom at the Coalter Street store. In his soft southern voice, he addressed employees and customers:
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is Memorial Day. The store will shut down for the next 60 seconds as we observe a moment of silence in honor of America’s fallen heroes.”
Perhaps this is one of the things I love most about living in a small town.
It was 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, the time of the national moment of silence. The cashiers stopped checking out customers. Muzak was turned off. Customers paused in aisles while employees ceased working. The store was essentially shut down and for the next 60 seconds all observed a moment of silence for America’s fallen military heroes. Among those was an uncle I never knew, a casualty of battle in Germany just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe.
Thanks to Mr. Pritchett, the small town of Staunton in western Virginia paused to remember … this town that is home to the Stonewall Brigade, the 116th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army National Guard, founded in 1741 and active during the Civil War, World War II, and most recently deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan … this community that turns out when troops deploy and return from battle.
It is also home to the Statler Brothers whose “More Than a Name on a Wall” is their own hauntingly poignant tribute to those who died for God and country, and returned home draped in the American flag: “She said, ‘Lord my boy was special and he meant so much to me. And oh I’d love to see him just one more time, you see. All I have are the memories and the moments to recall. So Lord could You tell him he’s more than a name on a wall.’ ”
Freedom is not free….
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell