MARTINSBURG — While everyone honors those service members who died on Remembrance Day Monday, Melissa Gantt and her boyfriend, Donald, will do so in retrospect.
As caretakers of Green Hill Cemetery, the couple hold a Decorating Day event at the cemetery to tie into the history of the significance of the holiday and that of the cemetery and town.
In 1890, Decoration Day was adopted as a time to honor fallen soldiers of the Civil War, then changed to Memorial Day to encompass fallen heroes of all wars.
“I thought that would be cool, because they used to do a decorating day in Martinsburg,” Gantt said. “What they used to do, which I thought was amazing, was they would start in the middle of town for a parade and then that parade would walk from the middle of town to Green Hill Cemetery. This is where the parade ended with a final salute, and they would have Decorating Day, where people would place flags on the graves of different people.
According to her, through research, Gantt found articles dating back to the 1800s that explained celebrations in town and Decoration Day. Since taking over as caregivers three years ago, the couple have always held Memorial Day-related events, including passing out flags for a donation, but the discovery of this forgotten piece of history has taken a toll. proved to be the inspiration to go back in time.
The table with flags available for donation – minimum $5 – will remain, but with the original Decorating Day concept in mind, Green Hill Cemetery will truly serve as a place to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice of all. eras with a treasure hunt. Participants will research the location of soldiers from different eras. The entrant with the most finds will win a prize, and if there is a tie, a random name picker will choose the winner.
“We have so many soldiers. I only found one, but we have one from the Revolutionary War,” Gantt said. “It’s the oldest we’ve found, and it’s the only one. It’s so weird, because his tombstone faces the mausoleum, but the rest of his family faces the opposite. It’s this little tombstone next to all these very pretty flat stones that have these big crosses engraved on them.
His passion for the history housed inside the fence, for the chance to honor those who gave their all to defend the country, is clear. And it is this passion that Gantt is delighted to share with the public.
“My favorite thing is when people come in and really want to know that story,” she said. “I could talk to them for days about the history we’ve learned since we’ve been there.”
All donations made go towards the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery.