A number of communities across the Ohio Valley celebrated Memorial Day on Monday with parades, ceremonies and salutes.
In McMechen, a long-time tradition was continued as a three volley salute opened up a two-part ceremony. It started at 7:45 a.m., with veterans assembled in front of Center McMechen Elementary School for the kick-off, with the playing of Taps, followed by a parade, led by four restored military Jeeps.
The McMechen tradition includes speeches, prayers, music, placing a wreath on the memorial, and another performance of Taps and a three volley salute by a veterans' organization. More than 100 people turn out for the event each year, and many leave flowers or flags at the graves of their loved ones.
In Wheeling, the sparkling water of the Ohio River provided the backdrop for Monday's Memorial Day ceremony. Veterans groups put together a service with prayers and speeches, music and drama. The groups have been doing the ceremony for years at 11 a.m. each Memorial Day.
One of the most moving parts of the Wheeling ceremony is the "casting of the bouquet." Four veterans carried a bouquet of flowers to the water's edge and tossed it into the river. The strains of Taps could be heard as it floated away. The ceremony drew a crowd of about 100, and many were moved to tears.
In Moundsville, Marshall County residents gathered to honor those who have fought for the country, during a ceremony filled with moments of silence, music, symbolism and a 21 gun salute. This year, Gold Star Mothers were honored and given flowers. A few hundred people showed up to the event, including a young man working to honor veterans at his school.
"I made a comment to my principal about getting a bigger flag, and then from there we have an inside memorial and an outside memorial," said John Marshall High School Senior, Hayden Blazer. Now, John Marshall High School has a mural painted in the school to honor veterans, and a bigger flag and plaque outside that reads, "All gave some, some gave all." The school is also working on a photo album of local veterans.
In Brooke County, dozens of veterans and their family members gathered at Brooke Hills Memorial Park to honor those who served the United States. The service also included music, prayer, and a speech by key note speaker West Virginia Senator Jack Yost.
Brooke County resident, Rose Marie Forsythe, had five brothers who served in the military. She said attending services like Monday's always bring back childhood memories. "The main reason I remember when they went to war was seeing my mother cry when they said goodbye. I was just a teenager, I think 15 or 16, and this is the main memory in my mind," she said.
The service ended with members of the Tri-State Young Marines and the Ohio Valley Memorial Squad receiving medals for their dedication to our country. Other awards were handed out, as well. Paul Bud Billiard was honored for continuing to put on beautiful Memorial Day services each year.
Many people in Wheeling said that Memorial Day has become just another Summer holiday for most people, that it means a day off from work and a time to have a cookout and party. But they said many families will always have an empty chair at the table, and that's what Memorial Day is all about.