Memorial Day weekend programs announced for Natchez and Vidalia

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Several programs will be held this Memorial Day weekend through which local residents and visitors can honor the men and women who paid the ultimate price while serving in the U.S. military.

Commemorative programs will be held in Natchez and Vidalia.

These programs include a fundraising dinner, patriotic ceremonies and the placing of flags and flowers on the graves of those who died in military service.

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These events, which will start on Friday, will lead to the 158th Annual Miss-Lou Memorial Day Parade set for Monday, May 27.

 Friday, May 24

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, May 24, Point Man International Ministries will serve jambalaya plate lunches at 270 Front St.

These plates are a fundraiser for the Cost of Freedom Tribute Memorial that will be built on the Vidalia riverfront. The cost per plate is $15.

The VFW Post 9573 will provide the food preparation. The event is organized by Army Vietnam veteran Douglas McCallister.

As noted in the March 3, story in The Natchez Democrat, the memorial will “be an 80 percent scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., 360 feet long and 8 feet tall at the apex, except the memorial would include the names of casualties and tributes to those involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, World War I and World War II and Korean wars in addition to Vietnam.”

McCallister said Memorial Day is a special time of the year: “It is a time that we might consider that you haven’t lived until you’ve almost died. And for those who fought for it – freedom – they have a flavor the protected will never know.”

The public may also visit the Miss-Lou Military Museum and Veteran’s Welcome Center from 9 to 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

The museum is located at 107 Jefferson Davis Blvd. Admission to the museum is free to the public.

 Saturday, May 25

Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 25, the Natchez National Cemetery will honor military service members by placing flags on each of their graves.

This is an annual tradition that is done with the help of volunteers through the cemetery’s Pre-Memorial Day Program, said Caleb Ray, cemetery technician.

Volunteers typically consist of groups from the Natchez Fire Department, Girl Scouts, Natchez High School’s AF JROTC and the Adam County Sheriff Office Trustees, all of whom are supervised by the cemetery staff, Ray said.

Charlotte Taylor, the assistant director of the Mississippi National Cemetery Complex at Natchez, said that after Memorial Day, volunteers will be needed to retrieve the flags on Saturday, June 1, beginning at 8 a.m.

 Also on Saturday, at 11 a.m., a Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 270 Front St. in Vidalia to honor the 13 U.S. service members killed in action in Afghanistan during the United States’ pullout from the country. Retired Army Sgt. Major Kasie King of Jonesville, La., will be the guest speaker, according to McCallister.

 Monday, May 27

For several years now, Karla Brown of Downtown Karla Brown has visited the Natchez National Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor military service members by placing flowers on their graves.

She will do it this year at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, May 27 and she is looking for volunteers to assist her.

“I buy up all the flowers at Walmart and the grocery stores,” she said. “I put them in a bucket full of water and early the next morning, I put one flower in front of the graves. I don’t have enough flowers to do every grave. It would be a wonderful dream to put a flower on every grave.”

In a recent Facebook post, Brown said that each year she would place the flowers “very randomly” on the graves until she ran out. “I just always made sure I covered all the wars and all the branches of services,” she wrote.

When people learned of her project, they donated “buckets of flowers,” and some of them served as volunteers, Brown said.

One of the volunteers in 2023 included Harper Willis of Girl Scout Troop 3745.

She noted that she and her volunteers, some of whom are veterans, are careful to not rush through the cemetery. “We put the flowers in front of the graves and stand back,” she said. “We look at the grave and reflect on the person and their service to our country before we move on to the next grave.”

For Brown, it is important to start early on Memorial Day because of the many activities scheduled for the cemetery on that day.

“We set the flowers at the graves very early in the morning, at 6:30am,” she said. “Yes, it might be early, but can you honestly think of a better way to start Memorial Day off than by setting a beautiful flower or rose in front of a veterans grave early in the morning? I can’t.”

Anyone interested in assisting Brown as a volunteer or who wishes to make a donation for the purchase of flowers may contact her at 907-540-0001.

The Miss-Lou Memorial Day Parade will be held Monday, May 27. The lineup will begin at 8 a.m. at Zion Baptist Church at 601 Magnolia Street in Vidalia.

At 9 a.m., the parade will start at the foot of the Louisiana side of the bridge. It will proceed across the bridge to the Natchez Visitor Center at 640 S. Canal St. and from there to the Natchez National Cemetery at 41 Cemetery Road, where the 11 a.m. ceremony will be held.