Knowing history and the sacrifices made

Local veteran talks about remembering fallen soldiers

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CLINTON — Keith Volker’s father is well-known local veteran Darvin Volker, and Keith is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran himself, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Keith would have some insight into the importance of remembering Americans who have died for their country.  

Keith Volker spoke on Monday during the annual Clinton Memorial Day observance, held in the Civil War section of Woodlawn Cemetery.

Volker said that his high school history teacher talked often about WWII and the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

“He always talked about understanding the ramifications of all the things those folks went through,” Volker told the crowd Monday.  

They weren’t just people on a battlefield; they were fighting for a cause; they were fighting for us.”

He said the grave markers of fallen service people and the wreaths set out annually in their memory were important parts of remembering their sacrifices.

“Bring children to these ceremonies, and teach them the history,” Volker said.

Often, he said, people have confusion about the differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  Once known as Armistice Day, to mark the end of WWI, Veterans Day is a national holiday to recognize all U.S. military veterans.

Memorial Day, known by some previous generations as Decoration Day, remembers those who served and died defending the union and the nation.

The book Silence at Appomattox helped spark Volker’s interest in history, and specifically military history.  Volker also made a recent trip to the Vicksburg battlefield site and memorial.

“They have a big mausoleum there for Illinois soldiers who served,” he said.  “It’s very sobering to know all the (Civil War) battles that took place.”

Volker talked about the group of free slaves in South Carolina who, in 1865, moved the bodies of 250 Union soldiers from a mass grave, “and gave them a proper burial.”

The next year, a group of women in Georgia began decorating the graves of not only Confederate soldiers but also of Union soldiers.

He said as the word spread about the acknowledgement of people lost in Civil War battles, the movement began to gain momentum.

Later, Gen. John A. Logan initiated Order 11 establishing a “Decoration Day” for remembering the fallen of “the late rebellion.”

Decoration Day was recognized nationally in 1889.  After WWI, people were encouraged to acknowledge all fallen soldiers and veterans as well.

In 1950, Congress passed and President Harry Truman signed into law the designation of Decoration Day as Memorial Day.  In 1967, the U.S. government recognized Memorial Day as a holiday, and in 1971, it became effective nationwide.

Since the American Revolution, over 1 million men and women have died in wars fought by the U.S.

Volker has a son serving in the U.S. Air Force, and he talked about the difficulty of having him home knowing he has to return to duty.

He said imagine “yourself the parent of one of those who have died.” 

“Consider that they are not coming back. How do you deal with that?”

Volker said positive moments can be found in those families helping others understand the sacrifices of their sons and daughters.  

“Help others understand the sacrifice …to give us those freedoms we celebrate today.”