Attendees formed a sea of red, white and blue clothing and wore little blue paper forget-me-nots pinned to their shirts.
Chris Froeschner, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and current vice president of The United Service Organization of North Carolina, spoke at the event about the origins and significance of the holiday.
He said Memorial Day was originally created to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War and was later extended to honor all Americans who died in military service.
Jim Abrahamson, a Carolina Meadows resident, spoke about the incredibly high death toll that came with the Civil War — about 620,000 American soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation and disease.
“This was the heavy, heavy price,” Abrahamson said.
Froeschner said many Americans don’t realize what Memorial Day is really about.
“Memorial Day, despite what you see with all the sales on TV and everyone wanting to thank the veterans, is a day of remembrance of people who died while serving in our country’s armed forces,” he said.
John Geis, a Carolina Meadows resident, was a deep sea diver in the U.S. Military from 1953-55 during the Korean War. He said it’s important to remember that we celebrate Memorial Day for a different reason than we celebrate Veterans Day.
“We have Veteran’s Day to remember all the veterans,” he said. “Memorial Day is for those who gave everything.”
At the event, military uniforms and photos were available for attendees to view.
Geis provided a 119-year-old American flag, made in 1896 when Utah was included as a state, to display at the event.
“It’s supposed to have flown in the Spanish-American War,” he said.
During the event, Froeschner quoted a Memorial Day speech by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who fought with the Union in the Civil War and later served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Memorial Day celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith,” he said, quoting Holmes. “It embodies, in the most impressive form, our belief that acts of enthusiasm and faith are the conditions for acting greatly.”
Froeschner said those who have served in the military are often made to remember their time in the armed forces on a day-to-day basis.
“You may see a convoy of guns driving down the highway, your local National Guardsman going to simulate deployment or go for weekend training, and instantly you’re pulled back in your memory to a time — a similar event in time — that involves you,” he said.
He said Memorial Day is a time to remember friends or family who lost their lives serving and protecting the U.S.
“For me, it’s the memory of a pilot that I flew with in Japan who later in his career lost his life in a mishap while training.”
Froeschner said he also had a close friend in the military who committed suicide after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“On a solemn day like today, we’re in the presence of the dead,” he said. “On this day, we decorate their graves, and the dead come back and live with us in our memories.”