“We’re here to honor a few of those guys that died to keep Southern heritage alive,” said Cave Spring’s Caleb Parris, the youngest member of Rome’s Sons of Confederate Veterans.
One hundred thirty-nine years after the Civil War ended, 40 people visited the cemetery on the eve of Confederate Memorial Day to honor the some 600 Civil War veterans buried there.
Norman R. Dasinger, guest speaker for the service, urged listeners to remember those who fell in combat as he quoted from Exodus. “‘Honor thy father and thy mother.’ That’s what we’re here to do today — honor our Confederate fathers and mothers.”
To honor the 300 Confederate soldiers at the cemetery actually killed in combat, small Confederate battle flags lined the graves and a wreath was placed on a slope overlooking the graves. A band clad in Confederate uniforms played on as well, and SCV members gave a 21-gun salute and fired a cannon to honor the dead.
“They never did get to go home. They never did get to see their loved ones,” said Commander William C. Daniel of Major John Pelham Camp No. 258, Jacksonville, Ala. “That’s what Confederate Memorial Day is about.”
But Dasinger, past commander-in-chief of the SCV, reminded those in attendance not to forget soldiers fighting in the Middle East today or the other numerous war veterans lying in eternal rest on Rome’s historic hill.
“We’ve lost a lot of people in Iraq,” he said. “There are a lot of brave Americans paying the price, and we need to remember them on Confederate Memorial Day.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., seconded Dasinger’s sentiment. “We should never, ever forget those young men who fought in the Civil War. They never questioned why, they just went and did their duty,” he said.
On that note, Gingrey chastised those not in support of both President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. “We’ve gotta stand by our troops,” he said.
SCV member Ralph Cook of Floyd County was participating in the service for the first time and was attending for the first time as well. “My grandfather’s buried up here,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve the history of the South and honor the soldiers buried here.” He and fellow SCV member Jerry Nations presented the wreath Sunday.
Shorter College student Julie Burakowski said she was in the area and stumbled across the service. “I think it’s nice,” she said. “It deserves to be honored.”
Dasinger went on to say Southerners should be proud of their ancestors who bravely fought in the Civil War. “They were there because they believed in something.”
Like their ancestors, Dasinger said, people in the South cherish their region. “Southerners today still love the land. We still treasure the land maybe more than they do in other places.”
As Dasinger reminded the crowd to remember Southern heritage, Parris said he hopes to pass on the SCV tradition to his children one day. “All is not lost,” Dasinger said. “We do a lot of remembering.