Laurel Hill Cemetery ensures their fallen soldiers are properly honored this Memorial Day

Justin Udo
May 26, 2019 - 2:39 pm
A special service was held Sunday honoring some of the region's Civil War veterans at Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A special service was held today honoring those from our area who gave their lives fighting in the Civil War.

In 1868, Laurel Hill Cemetery held Philadelphia's first observance of Memorial Day.

"This was a focal point for all the dead of the Civil War, and we lost almost 800,000 men in the Civil War. Many of those who were from Philadelphia elected to be buried here," said Anthony Waskie, who for the last 20 years has helped keep the original tradition alive by holding a Decoration Day service at the cemetery.

"Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, remembering the fallen in war, particularly to the Civil War," Waskie said. 

Waskie says the service follows a lot of the original format.

"We want to do this the way it was done in the 19th century, with the music, with the uniforms, with the volleys, with the wreath laying, with the poems," he said. 

Dressed in wool Civil War era uniforms, and braving 90 degree temperatures, re-enactors marched through Laurel Hill cemetery as part of their annual Memorial Day parade.

"This day is about all of the wonderful people who gave their lives," said Cindy Griffis.

She was dressed in an all black hoopskirt and top, similar to a Civil War era mourner. 

"I love living the piece of history," she said. "This helps put you in a whole different perspective. You're grief is very public, yet hidden, hidden behind a veil."

Griffis says eventhough times and clothing changes, she wishes some of the Memorial day traditions that have faded were still around.

"Unfortunately now a days I don't think we grieve long enough, we're not allowed to grieve long enough, let's get on with it, lets get on with let's get on with life and that shouldn't be. We should be happy to remember people," she said.

During the ceremony participants decorated the graves of unknown soldiers that were recently discovered.

"Each year, we identity veterans who may be in unmarked graves, here, and we place markers there and then we dedicate them," Waskie explained. "We received stones for them, and they've been placed, and we will now honor them with a volley, like all veterans deserve for their service."