FORT MITCHELL, Ala. — In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, a local cemetery hopes to thank those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for American freedom. Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery serves as a shrine for those returning home, as well as those who have already gone home.
For Christine Griffin, Memorial Day Weekend means more than just vacations and barbecue. Her husband Raymond served as a Sergeant First Class in the Army from 1968 until 1992. The Griffin family frequently stops by “Big Griff’s” grave to say a prayer in remembrance of such a bright personality.
“If he was here today, you’d see those big eyes and big smile,” Christine said. “And if he met you, it’d be like you’ve known him all your life. He would always love and do unto others.”
Christine Griffin knows what kind of sacrifice it takes to serve one’s country. It’s a price that warrants no receipt, but rather a simple thank you.
“We just thank them because they paid the price for keeping us safe,” Griffin said.
Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery assistant director Todd Newkirk says people flock from near and far to plant flags at about 8,500 graves. News 3 ran into people from Phenix City to Alexander City, as well as Columbus. Everyone present spoke about what an honor it was to plant a flag as a token of their appreciation for such a significant sacrifice.
“It validates what we do on a daily basis, and helps us to celebrate the lives of our heroes, our nation’s heroes,” Newkirk said. Memorial Day was started following the Civil War. It was called Decoration Day. People would come out and decorate the graves of the soldiers. It was changed to Memorial Day to recognize soldiers from all wars.”
Yulonda Kent volunteered with her sorority, comprised of female veterans. She says a seemingly small gesture such as planting a flag symbolizes a heart full of gratitude.
“For me it’s very touching, because for one, it could have been me,” Kent said. “They gave more than a small gesture. These men and women gave their lives, so it’s a lot bigger than that.”
Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery will hold a Memorial Day program Sunday at 1p.m. Dr. David DiRamio will offer the keynote address at the ceremony.