Memorial Day celebrations around the Miami Valley reminders of ‘what freedom cost’

With music, parades and wreath-laying ceremonies, people around the Miami Valley spent Memorial Day honoring those who died while serving.

In Miamisburg, Diane Rodriguez brought her 2-year-old and 4-year-old children to the parade on Monday. Rodriguez said her husband is in the Air Force and stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, so the family moved to the area last summer. Her husband had to work Monday, but Rodriguez said it was important to bring her children to the parade and make sure they understand what Memorial Day is about.

“It’s important to remember what today is all about and what freedom cost,” she said.

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Rodriguez said she grew up knowing about Memorial Day because her grandfather and great-grandfather were in the Navy.

The parade started with the Miamisburg High School band playing the national anthem. The American Legion Post 165 members tossed a red, white and blue wreath into the river from Linden Avenue in remembrance of those military members who gave their lives at sea. A 21-gun salute rang out above the Great Miami River followed by the clattering of metal shell casings onto the pavement.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Long-time Miamisburg businessman and resident Jim Lenz served as the Memorial Day parade grand marshal. Lenz is a veteran of the Korean War. He is a 1946 MHS graduate and was drafted in the U.S. Army and served at Fort Belvior, Virginia from November 1950 to November 1952.

Before the parade, American Legion Post 165 held services at Our Lady of Good Hope Cemetery, Hill Grove Union Cemetery and Highland Cemetery.

The parade started at about 11 a.m. moving along Linden Avenue and processed to Veteran’s Memorial Park. The band led two dozen convertibles, fire trucks from local jurisdictions and some other vintage vehicles. The American Legion provided free hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream and bottled water at the park.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Linda and Clement Middendorf said they have attended the parade every year since 1978.

“It’s a great tradition for us,” Linda Middendorf said. “We love it.”

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The Middendorfs said it was “wonderful” to be able to attend the parade after all festivities were canceled last year.

Clement Middendorf was in the Army from 1964 to 1970. The couple comes to the parade every year to honor Clement and the other veterans in their family, which represents every branch of the military but the Air Force, Linda Middendorf said.

“This is a day to celebrate our military,” Linda Middendorf said. “I hope our country stays patriotic and we continue to have celebrations like this.”

At the Dayton National Cemetery, there was a private wreath-laying ceremony. Officials wanted to hold a ceremony following as many precautions as possible to honor “the nation’s finest” in spite of the pandemic, said Doug Ledbetter, the director of the cemetery. The cemetery has commemorated Memorial Day since 1867, he said.

Amidst the pristine white graves of the fallen and their families, wreaths were laid for each branch of the military, for Gold Star families and for Memorial Day.

“Don’t stop at Memorial Day,” Ledbetter said. “We need to make sure that we honor our veterans every day. Without them we wouldn’t have the barbeques and the beach trips.”

Each of the cemetery’s 57,000 graves had an American flag in front of it.

Donald Caldwell, who laid a wreath honoring Gold Star families, received a pin to honor his father’s service. Caldwell’s father died in World War II.

“I never got to know my dad, because I was nine months old when he died, but my mom would always talk about him and all he did for me,” Caldwell said. “Memorial Day means a whole lot to me. As a kid, we would go to every Memorial Day celebration and listen. It means something to me.”

Caldwell is from Huntington, West Virginia, and his father is now buried there, but his cousin asked the Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad to honor Caldwell.

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