By Jody Brumage
As the nation reflects on the service of the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces on Memorial Day, residents of West Virginia take part in a tradition extending back to the years immediately following the American Civil War. West Virginia's state and national leaders annually join with veterans and civilians in the remembrance of Memorial Day at Grafton National Cemetery. Recently, Byrd Center intern Zachary Garver uncovered speeches given by Senator Robert C. Byrd and Congressman Harley O. Staggers, Sr. at these annual ceremonies at West Virginia's oldest national military cemetery.
In the following years, Senator Byrd played a major role in the establishment of the West Virginia National Cemetery at Pruntytown, a few miles from Grafton National Cemetery. After the Grafton National Cemetery reached its maximum capacity in 1961, efforts to establish a second military cemetery in the state led to the creation of the West Virginia National Cemetery in 1987. Senator Byrd spoke at the dedication of newly- completed facilities at the cemetery on June 2, 1991.
On May 30, 2016, residents of Grafton and hundreds of visitors participated in the 149th Memorial Day Parade and Commemoration, culminating at the historic Grafton National Cemetery. The celebration continues as one of the nation's oldest Memorial Day commemorations, honoring the thousands of West Virginians who have served in defense of their country.
Click here to read Senator Byrd and Congressman Staggers, Sr.'s speeches.
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