31st annual Memorial Day event honors vets

Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans AffairsEach year, more than 1,000 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls, Boys Clubs and other Mid-South organizations honor fallen veterans by placing more than 42,000 flags on the graves at Memphis National Cemetery.

It generally takes participants fewer than 30 minutes to place over 42,000 flags on the graves.

Their volunteer work this Saturday will be part of the 31st annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the cemetery, located at 3568 Townes Avenue, Memphis.

The property is one of the 385 national military cemeteries across the U.S.

Scouts will start arriving around 7 a.m., and the public events will begin at 8:45 a.m. with a unit flags’ walk-in, continuing until approximately 11 a.m.

This year’s program will feature:

  • Blue Thunder Tennessee 1 and Wolf River Pipes & Drums
  • 2014 honorees – Joe Dycus and Dr. John Austin, longtime Scouters in the Chickasaw Council
  • Presentation of Colors by the Naval Support Activity Mid-South Color Guard
  • Raising of the Memorial Flag by Boy Scout Troop 13
  • National anthem by Mrs. Barbara Simmons, Opera Memphis Vocal Group
  • U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, led by Eagle Scout Brandon Heaston, Troop 13
  • Invocation, led by Bishop Charles B. Watkins Sr., Striking Change Ministries
  • Welcome, by Raymond Miller, Director of Little Rock, Corinth and Memphis National Cemeteries
  • Special music by the Wolf River Pipes & Drum, performing “Amazing Grace”
  • Guest speaker, U.S. attorney Edward L. Stanton III
  • Placing of the wreaths, by the American Heritage Girls, Tennessee Troop. 2011
  • Special music by Shelly Cheng of the American Heritage Girls Tennessee Troop 2011
  • Benediction, led by Dr. Danny Sinquefield, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett
  • 21-gun salute by Marine Corps League Walter K. Singleton Detachment 476
  • Taps, performed by Mr. Tom Clary and Son Troop 255
  • Retiring of the colors, by Naval Support Activity Mid-South Color Guard
  • Placing flag at full staff, by Boy Scout Troop 13
  • Closing comments, by C.W. Brown, master of ceremonies

Facts About Memphis National Cemetery

  • Memphis National Cemetery was established during the Civil War with the purchase of 32 acres northeast of the City by a board of Union officers. It was originally known as Mississippi River National Cemetery. In 1867 it was established as Memphis National Cemetery.
  • The Cemetery interred soldiers who had died in military hospitals throughout the areas. In 1867 about 250 Confederate and Union soldiers were re-interred here from the Fort Pillow battle site north of Memphis.
  • Memphis National Cemetery has the largest number (8366) of unknowns interred in any national cemetery.
  • Many of the casualties from the explosion of the steamboat Sultana in the Mississippi River on the night of April 26, 1865 were buried here. Many of these are unknown. The Sultana was certified to carry 376 passengers; on the night of April 26th it was estimated to have well over 2,300 people onboard. Only about 800 survived. The official report listed 1,547 dead. The Sultana explosion was the largest maritime disaster until the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
  • One Medal of Honor recipient is interred here. Private James H. Robinson served in the Civil War in Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry. His grave is marked with a special marker located in Section H, Grave 4131.
  • Also interred here is an ex-slave Caleb Adams who died in 1933 at the age of 112. He served in the 122nd U.S.C. Infantry during the Civil War. Earlier he served as a house servant of President John Quincy Adams. He is buried in Section K, Grave 5372A.