(Stock photo/MorgueFile)

American Legion and Cleburne officials have called upon residents to display candles on their front porches this Memorial Day and remind all to view Monday’s online Memorial Day ceremony.

With mass gatherings still discouraged in wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis this year’s Memorial Day celebrations required creative thinking, Past American Legion Auxiliary State President Marty Peters said.

American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford encourages members of the American Legion family as well as U.S. citizens far and wide to honor America’s fallen heroes at dusk on Monday by lighting candles in veteran’s honor and placing them on their front porch.

“Such a display will remind everyone that our resolve to honor those who served before us will continue even as social distancing measures limit our ability to perform traditional Memorial Day remembrances,” Oxford said.

Red, white or blue candles, or all of the above, are recommended.

Red recalls the blood of service men and women shed in battle to ensure protection of our freedoms, Oxford said. White reminds us to keep our POW/MIA service men and women ever in our thoughts as we hope and pray for their safe return, Oxford said, and blue reminds us of service men and women who made it home but have since passed away.

Peters applauded Oxford’s call and encouraged all in Cleburne and Johnson County to participate.

“Naturally, we would love to hold the ceremony like we do every year at Cleburne Memorial Cemetery,” Peters said. “This being a different type year to say the least because of the COVID-19 situation that is not going to be possible. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should ever forget the sacrifices and gratitude owed to our veterans and their families regardless of whatever else is occurring in the world in any given year.

“I think the candles are really an inspired idea because they can, and should, involve everyone in the community. I encourage everyone to participate and to turn all of our neighborhoods into a sea of support for our veterans and the freedoms they’ve secured for us this Memorial Day.”

The hope, Peters said, is that the annual Memorial Day ceremony will resume next year. 

For this year, however, area veterans, members of Cleburne’s American Legion Post 50 and city officials have teamed up to produce a Memorial Day remembrance video. 

The video will post Monday morning on Cleburne’s Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page. The video will also be shared on American Legion Post 50’s Facebook page.

In addition to Peters and Post 50 Commander Ronnie Webb, Cleburne firefighters, Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain and others participated in the making of the video. Benay Sifford, both her grandparents were veterans, performed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Cain, in his online remarks, stresses the urgency of each generation’s duty to cultivate freedom. Cain joined Peters in urging residents to participate in the candle ceremony and to watch the Memorial Day video.

“While COVID-19 has prevented large gatherings in person, I would encourage people to take a few minutes as a family and honor the memory of our patriots that have given their lives for our freedoms by watching the ceremony video created to help us pause to remember that our freedoms were not free,” Cain said.  “With all that has happened over the past months, our nation has a deeper understanding of the importance of our freedom and it make sense that we should take time to remember those who secured those freedoms.”

Peters reiterated Cain’s call and urged residents to make Monday a family affair.

“This is an opportunity to view the Memorial Day tribute video and take some time to help our children and youth understand why Memorial Day is a legal holiday and the true meaning  of sacrifice and love of country.”

County Judge Roger Harmon last week proclaimed Sunday through May 31 as Poppy Days in Johnson County and to decorate the grave of a veteran and/or wear a memorial poppy “as mute evidence of gratitude to the men and women of this county who have risked their lives in defense of the freedoms we continue to enjoy as American citizens.”

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