TUPELO – If anyone knows the true meaning of Memorial Day, it’s the residents of the Gilvo community.
For the past 12 years, residents of the community between Skyline and Mooreville have followed Jean Walters into Gilvo Cemetery on Memorial Day to place flags on the graves of the 71 military veterans, representing nearly every American war since the Civil War.
Walters said honoring the fallen buried at Gilvo is a family affair.
“A lot of the people buried at Gilvo are family,” she said. “We all have fathers, uncles, brothers and granddads buried out there. We all grew up hearing the stories about the wars and the importance of serving our country. We saw the passion our relatives took in being in the military, so it was only fitting that we did our best to honor them and we do just that.”
Meredith Dillard, Charlene Gunner-Lansdell, Jean Wheeler-Leech and Jerry Roberts all have relatives who have served in wars buried in Gilvo.
Dillard’s father, Ed Summers, fought in World War II and for many years he made the trip to Gilvo to honor the men buried there. When he died in 2007, he was buried in Gilvo.
Now Dillard rarely misses Memorial Day at the cemetery to place a flag on her father’s grave, just as he did for other veterans there.
“My father loved that cemetery and he loved that church,” said Dillard. “He never missed a Memorial Day there. He made sure we knew how important our servicemen are. To this day I get goosebumps when I hear ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ And that’s what Gilvo is about, honoring those men who paid the price for freedom.”
Gunner-Lansdell has a few more flags to place on graves than others do. Buried in the cemetery are four brothers, including a twin, and an uncle. Her brothers – Herman, Robert, Samuel Newel and twin Charles – all served in World War II, as did her uncle, Joseph Stanley Gunner.
Samuel and Robert were killed overseas.
“A lot of my family are buried at Gilvo and we honor them and the sacrifices they gave,” said Gunner-Lansdell. “Our community is so close and everyone pays respect because most of us are related. Memorial Day is just as important to our family as any other holiday.”
Wheeler-Leech’s brother, Billy Wheeler, served in Korea and was the recipient of both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. Even though not all are buried at Gilvo, she said more than 20 of her relatives served in World War II.
Roberts remembers stories about his father Carl H. Roberts, who served in World War II and his grandfather Graydon Barnes, who served in World War I.
“It was something that was just talked about around the house, so we knew how important it was,” said Roberts. “It’s something that was embedded in us at a young age and it still is a big part of our lives today.”
This year, however, because of illnesses and other reasons, Gilvo will not have a formal flag ceremony for its fallen veterans. It will be the first time without it in 12 years.
But Walters will make sure that every grave has a flag.
“As long as I can I will place flags on the graves of the men in Gilvo Cemetery,” said Walters. “They deserve to be honored.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal