GALLIPOLIS — U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson will serve as this year’s parade marshal and guest speaker at the annual Gallipolis Memorial Day parade and ceremony planned for Monday, May 27.
Born and raised on family farms, Johnson entered the U.S. Air Force in 1973, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after a distinguished military career of more than 26 years.
As Director of the Air Force’s Chief Information Officer Staff at U.S. Special Operations Command, Johnson worked directly top leaders within the various U.S. intelligence communities to ensure America’s Special Operations forces were adequately equipped to carry out critical national security missions.
He is a proud recipient of the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Following his retirement from military service, Johnson turned to creating and building high technology businesses.
In 2010, Johnson was elected to his first term to represent the people of Ohio’s 6th Congressional District, which covers much of eastern and southeastern Ohio, and he was reelected in 2012. He currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Bill and his wife LeeAnn, currently reside in Marietta with a son, Nathan. He is also the proud parent of three grown children and is a grandfather of five.
The Gallipolis Memorial Day Parade, organized by the Gallia County Veterans Service Commission, will begin at 10:30 a.m., commencing at Bossard Memorial Library at a Second Avenue and Spruce Street, continuing down Second Avenue and along Court Street to First Avenue and will conclude at the Gallipolis City Park. A program will follow at 11 a.m. in the park at the Doughboy statue.
In the case of rain, the program will be moved to the Ariel Theatre and will begin, as scheduled, at 11 a.m.
Veterans groups, organizations, businesses, foundations and community support groups are invited to participate in the parade. Those wishing to participate should contact the Gallia County Veterans Service Office at (740) 446-2005 no later than Friday, May 24.
Memorial Day, previously known as Decoration Day, was first observed in the years following the end of the Civil War.
During that time, small communities throughout the country honored the sacrifices of the Civil War dead by decorating their graves.
Those practices inspired the first national ceremony that was held on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first national ceremony was established by proclamation of General John A. Loan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization comprised of former Civil War soldiers and sailors.
At the ceremony, James Garfield, Civil War general, congressman from Ohio and future president, spoke, “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”
This first ceremony also established the tradition of decorating all of the graves within Arlington National Cemetery, as 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.
In recent times, a small American flag is placed at each grave, and, traditionally, the president or vice president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In the years following the first national observance of Memorial Day, more communities across the country began to honor this day, and, soon after World War I, Memorial Day became an occasion to honor all those who had died in America’s wars.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday of May. However, there are still many southern states that have an additional and separate day to honor their Confederate war dead.
Since its beginnings in 1868, Memorial Day has grown to encompass honoring all those who died. Many families now observe Memorial Day by not only honoring the sacrifices of the nation’s war dead, but also by remembering and honoring their own departed loved ones.