Events planned for Memorial Day; many offices closed Monday in observance


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The territory will join the nation on Monday to pause and remember the countless Americans who lost their lives on the battlefield to protect the freedoms and liberties everyone enjoys.

The theme of the annual ceremony and parade to be held in each district Monday is "Honor and Remember," as schools, local and federal government offices, banks and many retail stores will be closed for the observance.

In observance of the holiday, all federal and local government offices, post offices, public, private and parochial schools and banks will be closed for the holiday. The University of the Virgin Islands and Innovative Business Centers in each district also will be closed. Most small retail stores will be closed for the observance while larger stores and supermarkets will remain open. Local malls will observe holiday hours.

American Legion District Commander Charles David said the mission of the organization is to honor and remember all veterans who gave their lives in the service of the country and to recognize and thank all veterans, past and present, who have served the country in the armed forces of the United States; the National Guard; the Reserves; and their allies.

The Memorial Day ceremony will be hosted by the Enrique Romero Nieves American Legion Post 102 on St. Croix and by the Patrick U. George American Legion Post 90 on St. Thomas. American Legion posts will decorate the graves of fallen comrades with flags, which has been a long-standing tradition.

The event on St. Croix will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Bassin Triangle, Christiansted, where a parade will start and move on to the Christiansted Cemetery for a graveside service at the resting place of Ralph Munchez Sr., a former member of the organization.

The parade then will continue on to the Christiansted waterfront, where a seaside service will be conducted and honors rendered. After the parade and graveside/seaside ceremonies, a special honors ceremony will take place at the Christiansted Bandstand, where Maj. Glenda Mathurine Lee, Human Resources officer of the Virgin Islands Air National Guard, will present the 2014 Memorial Day address.

Veterans Affairs Director Harry Daniel said the ceremony on St. Thomas will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Western Cemetery No. 1 with a graveside ceremony.

The parade then will move down Main Street to the Emile White Memorial for a seaside ceremony.

"This ceremony has long been a tribute to Navy Veteran Emile White and all those who have paid that ultimate sacrifice so we all can remain free," he said. "As we always say, 'Freedom is not Free.' "

Daniel said the parade will proceed to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Veterans Park for the official Memorial Day ceremony, where Dr. Lee Carl Whitaker, medical director for the St. Thomas Community Base Clinic, will present the keynote address.

Observation on St. John will include grave decorations and church service attendance, according to Daniel.

Troops from the Virgin Islands National Guard and JROTC from all of the territory's high schools, will participate in the parades again this year, along with boy scouts, cub scouts, other paramilitary organizations and school bands.

V.I National Guard spokeswoman Master Sgt. Karen Williams said the V.I. National Guard 73rd Army Band will have a number of performances this weekend to commemorate the fallen soldiers.

She said events will begin on St. Thomas, as the 73rd Army Band will perform for a Memorial Day concert 6:30 p.m. today at the Memorial Moravian Church on Norre Gade. The Concert Band and Music Performance Team will perform patriotic and sacred music in honor of fallen heroes.

On Sunday, the band will perform at the Verne Richards Veterans Park on the waterfront in Frederiksted from 5 to 6 p.m., and on Monday they will perform as part of the Memorial Day parade and ceremony in Christiansted.

Williams said when classes resume on Tuesday, the band will perform community service at St. Croix Central High School and the St. Croix Educational Complex mentor students interested in a music profession or a military career.

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was established after the Civil War to honor war dead by decorating their graves with flowers. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, placing it on the last Monday in May.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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