HARTVILLE  Values and virtue formed the backdrop of comments from Presbyterian Pastor and retired United States Air Force Major Tom Sawyer on May 25 during a Memorial Day ceremony at Hartville Memorial Park.

Leading up to the annual commemoration of fallen servicemen, Sawyer presented sobering statistics that have found as much as 50 percent of the population does not know the reason for Memorial Day.

For the record, the holiday was founded March 3, 1868, by Civil War and Mexican War veteran Gen. John A. Morgan. Originally known as Decoration Day, and dedicated as a time to “place flowers on the graves of our comrades who gave their lives” during the Civil War, Memorial Day eventually came to be a day to honor all deceased U.S. military members.

In his remarks, Sawyer warned that the nation’s creeping ambivalence toward such memorialization could lead to its eventual demise, much like that of the Soviet Union, which was destroyed largely from within.

Values, Sawyer said, are beliefs that can be passing, subjective and “flimsy” from generation to generation. He added that “rugged individualism was a necessary trait during the formation of the country, but oftentimes gets in its own way when teamwork toward a common goal is more effective.

Virtue, meanwhile, is defined as “a conformity to a standard of right; morality,” Sawyer said, suggesting that this is a tenet to which every citizen should aspire.

“From Gettysburg, to Iwo Jima, to the Hanoi Hilton, Kuwait and Afghanistan, (soldiers) values may not have been the same as ours, but their (goal) was to protect the virtue of our nation,” Sawyer said. “I would hope that you would take away two admonitions; to be heartily thankful to all those brave souls, and secondly, to commit yourself to preserving that for which they died.”

A younger generation listens

The ceremony also included a procession to Memorial Park, flag raising and Pledge of Allegiance by Boy Scout Troop 45, National Anthem by Lake Girl Scouts, welcoming statements by Hartville Mayor Cynthia Billings, an invocation by Pastor Jim Shuman, and “Taps” played by Tannor Boston and Dillan Walls.

Sponsors of the ceremony included Country Flowers and Herbs, McDonald’s, and Peace Love and Little Donuts.

Troop 45 member, Joshua Williams, 12, said that while it is good to express our national pride and honor those who have died in defense of it, he was surprised to find out how many people do not know the meaning of Memorial Day.

“So many don’t know and they think it is just something they get a day off of school for,” he said. “We have got to let them know.”

Joshua’s mother, Ronda Williams, said it is important to connect the nation’s past to its future.

“(Memorial Day history) is probably not the latest thing on Facebook or Twitter,” she said. “But maybe we should do that.”