|Thursday, Jun 2, 2011|
Despite the usual summer heat and humidity (and the infamous South Georgia gnats), hundreds of patriotic Americans flocked to Andersonville National Historic Site over the Memorial Day weekend for an inspiring sequence of events.
On Friday, May 27th, more than 60 volunteers – active duty and retired military personnel from nearby Robins Air Force Base – raised the “Avenue of Flags” lining the four intersecting roadways in Andersonville National Cemetery.
The next morning, on Saturday, May 28th, another wave of volunteers, more than 500 strong – mostly Boy and Girl Scouts from throughout the state of Georgia – carried on the tradition of decorating gravesites with small American flags.
Later that same day, a special reburial service was held for Marine Private James Howard Benjamin, one of approximately 20,000 African Americans who trained at the segregated Montford Point facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in the 1940s. PVT Benjamin was killed in action during World War II, originally interred in Hawaii, and later moved to a church cemetery in his Georgia hometown. Per the wishes of his surviving family, and with support from the local VFW Post and the Patriot Guard Riders, he was re-interred in Andersonville National Cemetery on May 28, 2011 with recognition of his service and sacrifice from Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. – and full military honors.
On Sunday, May 29th, at 2:00 p.m., the park’s annual Memorial Day program began in the National Cemetery. Ed DeMent, Past Director of the Southeast Region and Past State Commander of Florida, recognized veterans and POWs in the audience on behalf of the American Ex-Prisoners of War (AXPOW).
Befitting the nation-wide commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War now underway, this year’s featured speaker was Dr. Benjamin G. Cloyd, author of the recent book, Haunted by Atrocity: Civil War Prisons in American Memory. Dr. Cloyd’s address explored how generations of Americans have wrestled with the meaning of POW suffering at Andersonville and other Civil War prisons both North and South. The program concluded with the customary placing of wreaths by several organizations, including AXPOW and the Friends of Andersonville.
On Memorial Day itself, Monday, May 30th, the park was graced by the presence of Frank A. Kravetz, former AXPOW National Director and Service Officer. From the lobby of the National Prisoner of War Museum, Mr. Kravetz signed copies of his new book, Eleven Two: One WWII Airman’s Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom. He is generously donating a portion of the proceeds of his memoir to support the park’s “Victory From Within” traveling exhibit project.
Memorial Day observances at Andersonville begin on Armed Forces Day, a week before the holiday, with the unique EchoTaps event. Each Armed Forces Day at 11:00 a.m., Taps is sounded at every National Cemetery and U.S. Veterans cemetery worldwide. The purpose of EchoTaps is to honor and remember our American military veterans through a worldwide musical performance of Taps, foster a new generation of buglers who will play for veteran’s funerals and raise awareness of our National Cemeteries in the U.S. and overseas.
All of these events honor America's servicemen and women throughout our history. They also and highlight the dynamic ways in which we remember the Civil War and other conflicts at the national park which serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war.