Your Key to Applied Heritage:
Showcasing our Clay County, our St Johns River, our Florida, and our American Heritage --- One-Tribute-At-A-Time
MEMORIAL DAY BACKGROUND:
It was called DECORATION DAY long before Memorial Day: Remembrance for Military men and women who died as casualties of war. Yes, there are various stories as to how it started; nearly 30 cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. Strong evidence shows us organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves long before the end of the Civil War. During the 1860's DECORATION DAY had separate beginnings many were spontaneous gatherings; while others were planned. It was all about COMING TOGETHER (Union & Confederate) TO HONOR THOSE WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. The first call for a nationwide annual observance was in 1868. General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization for Union Civil War veterans) issued a proclamation for May 30th to be Decoration Day; the best possible date that flowers will be in bloom. The focus was honoring our Fallen and decorating grave sites; it included potluck dinners, and extended family reunions. By the mid 1870's annual Decoration Days were common place for more than 120 cemeteries in more than 25 States. They were often held on a Sunday, during the late spring or early summer.By the 20th century, Decoration Day was honoring all Americans who died while in the military service. For many decades it continued to be observed on May 30, over time the term Memorial Day replaced Decoration Day. In 1968 Congress established the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, establishing Memorial Day to be the last Monday in May.
HISTORY AND FUTURE OF THE CLAY COUNTY PARADE OF FLAGS
BACKGROUND: Lest-We-Forget: The private sector concept of the Parade of Flags came to Clay County in 1997 from Johna Hayes, Jr. (Vietnam Vet / local business owner). He had seen the main street of Duluth, Georgia lined with flags, placed on a cross bearing the name of a local fallen warrior. Johna presented the concept to the Green Cove Springs city officials and business associates. The initial proposal was to line our downtown sidewalks (high visibility) with American Flags to honor them. The concept is simple - commission a flag and cross bearing the name and the period they lost their life defending our U.S. Constitution, or in the case of the Civil War (war between the State) defending the Confederate South.
The idea was a big hit with the City Council. However, the city wanted the display to be in Spring Park. The Clay County Archives had a list of military casualties dating back to the 2nd Seminole War (1835-1842). Civic leader Johna Hayes recruited sponsors and the first annual (Clay County Tribute from 1835 to present) Parade of Flags was on display in Spring Park.
Fallen Warriors (FW) - actual, in theater casualty of military operation): Each white (2’X3’) wooden cross, topped with a 2’X3’ American Flag creates the annual Parade of Flags in Spring Park from mid-May to early June. The private sector project was set in motion so that any Clay County resident may nominate a service member – the Fallen Warrior (FW) does not have to be from Clay County. The Parade of Flags team verifies to determine that the nominee is a military casualty/Killed-In-Action. Applicants may assist in the process by providing detail information and supporting documents. Historically, there was no cost to nominate a service member, donations and volunteers are greatly appreciated.
By 2004, the Green Cove Springs Merchant Association (GCSMA) commenced supporting the project. There was considerable discussion about creating a permanent fallen warriors monument and or veterans' display "WALL" at the site of Parade of Flags (west side of Spring Park). In 2009, GCSMA meets its demise, however, “concerned parties” maintaining a seamless display for the good of the cause.
In 2010, a core group of civic-minded people imagined a new group; the Greater Green Cove Civic Association (GGCCA) to host the two flagship events are the Parade of Trees® and the Parade of Flags® that recognize and remember others, particularly military service personnel. These events also offer opportunities to cooperate with community leaders and encourage people to work together for the betterment of the community. Even though the families of our local Fallen Warriors are not recognized during the -one day - annual Memorial Day activities ever since 1997 the privately funded annual Parade of Flags had been a must see activity. Thousands of people visiting Spring Park view the display. Families often walk through the display leaving mementos and share stories of friends and loved ones and departed veterans. The message is the same “Let Us Not Forget” those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.
During 2011 Heritage Flags on Parade® was created. The GGCCA collaborated with Tobacco Free Clay (TFC) and Heritage Guides (HG) to create a new - separate - civic educational Flag element to showcase our America Heritage by displaying flag sign boards from the 1400’s to the present day. In 2013 Heritage Flags on Parade® operated on the success and concept of the Parade of Trees (Christmas Tree) our team created an "Adopt a Flag" civic education program to involve others and cover expenses.
1. ) Local (city and business) leaders have demonstrated no desire to follow through with the idea and hopes for a permanent memorial "WALL" to honor our local FALLEN Warriors in Spring Park, it appears to be forgotten.
2.) During May 2013 the Green Cove Spring Junior High School, BETA Club hosted the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall. "The Wall". Great Work – hats off to the students, parents, and staff! The GGCCA and HG supported their cause during the fall of 2012 and continued to support the students and the event by placing flags – with the names - for many of Clay County fallen at the base of The Wall. To gain a greater understanding of the concept and value of the TRAVELING WALL, the Parade of Flags team met with The Wall managers Greg and Mariam Walsh. From their insight a renewed focus was noted – return the original (1997) plan for the Parade of Flags (A Clay County Event) – seek a location for more people to see.
MAY 2013 TEST RUN: While GGCCA was merging its projects with HG. Our display of Clay County Fallen (92) was set up at the Military Museum of North Florida (MMNF) May 7, 2013, in preparation for "The Traveling WALL" event and to be on display for their Armed Forces Day (May 18, 2013) event. Our team received numerous positive comments. Many folks stated it gets much higher visibility at the MMNF. More than 70% of the guests had no knowledge of the Spring Park Memorial Day Riverfest event. More than 90% of the people surveyed agreed, if the display includes all Clay County Fallen Warriors, then it's a County event. Therefore, it needs to be where it can be seen (experience) by people all over Clay County.
On Sunday, May 19, 2013 (in preparation for Memorial Day) for the 17th consecutive year, the flags and crosses were placed at the west end of Spring Park and the Heritage Flags on Parade displays were placed around the Spring. Our Team became more aware that the lower west end of Spring Park - often wet - is more of a play area and is less likely to be visited by folks who need assistance walking; the display was tampered with that year more than another year - requiring more maintenance than any other year. On Saturday, June, 1st the Crosses, Flags, and signs were placed back in private storage and the free-standing educational flag displays were placed on loan to the MMNF.
2014: GGCCA had merged with HG - a greater vision was realized. We came to believe that it is high time that more people experience the display at more highly visible locations and events vice a secluded area. Additionally, the team investigated the idea that the display needs to be seen more often than just two to three weeks in May. Therefore, the word "Traveling" has been added to the Parade of Flags name. A hosting program has been developed for various groups, individuals and or business to request the display at their location. From May - November the Traveling Display was on location at ten separate locations for more than 120 days.
2015: Commences the 19th year for the display and the 2nd year for the traveling aspect. We have secured a 10' enclosed trailer devoted entirely to this project. Early in the year, we commenced in depth Clay County FWs research project. We are working in collaboration with three partners: Vietnam Veterans of America Clay County Chapter #1059 (VVACC), MMNF, and Clay County Archives to create an INCLUSIVE and CONCLUSIVE list of Clay County FWs. LESSONS LEARNED: The original 1997 was not accurately VERIFIED AND ARCHIVED; the list is now a "work in progress" with specific plans to render it to an honorable inclusive and conclusive list of names.
Due to popular demand, we have NOT been able to meet all requests for services. Therefore, we have created additional displays:
1.) A "Table Top" display suitable for inside or at an event booth space - completed May 2015.
2.) An additional full size traveling display devoted solely for our Clay County Fallen Warriors - Complete Nov 2015.