Holidays in Appalachia Music

Fallen Soldiers

Library of congress American Marines raising American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, 1945

Photo from Library of Congress
American Marines raising American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, 1945

Memorial Day was created to honor fallen soldiers of the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day. John L. Logan is largely responsible for organizing the day, and in 1868 declared:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

As time, and wars, went by people began honoring all fallen soldiers on the day no matter when or how they had served their country. In 1971 Congress officially declared Memorial Day to be an official holiday occurring on the last Monday in May to honor all who have given the ultimate sacrifice serving in the Armed Forces of The United States of America.

Pap and Paul learned the song Mansions of the Lord from the movie We Were Soldiers. The song plays as the credits roll, so a lot of folks missed the song even if they watched the movie.  We’ve always called the song Fallen Soldiers. It was only as I researched it’s history that I learned the real title.

Mansions of the Lord (music by Nick Glennie-Smith/Words by Randall Wallace)

To fallen soldiers that are seen
Where no rockets fly nor bullets sing
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the mansions of the Lord

No more weeping of our fight
No more searching through the night
Trust in Jesus name eternal life
In the mansions of the Lord

Where no mothers cry nor children weep
We shall stand and guard though the Angels see
All through the ages bravely keep
The mansions of the Lord
The mansions of the Lord

Pap raised us with a healthy dose of thankfulness for the soldiers who stood in the gap and sacrificed for our freedom. He was a Marine during the mid to late 50s so he didn’t serve in a direct combat situation. He’d be the first to tell you his time in the armed services was easy compared to those who did see combat.

Pap spent a large portion of his service in South America on a ship. I have always had horrible motion sickness. Pap told me he had it too…until he was put on the first ship. He said after a few days of misery his body finally adjusted to the motion and he never had to worry about getting motion sickness again.

Since Pap’s accident and heart attack last May he knew his time was drawing nigh. As the family talks about him we can all see clearly how he was completely prepared for death, but it seems he spent the last year preparing us for his death.

A few things that happened the week before he passed make me think he knew his journey across Jordan was coming soon. He shared a memory from the Marines with Granny that none of us, including Granny, had ever heard before.

The ship Pap was on was in a South American port. Several Marines had leave and went into town. A few of them had too much to drink, and one of them got in an argument with some of the locals. The fight escalated and the soldier ended up busting the windows out of their car. Pap told Granny some of them took up a little money and gave it to the person who owned the car so that they could fix the windows because they felt bad about it.

Granny said Pap cried as he told her the Marine that damaged the car disappeared, they never seen him again. Pap said they figured the locals killed him and maybe he asked for it, but he had always worried that a ship full of Marines might have been able to find him if they had tried. Granny said Pap also cried about a soldier that fell overboard and died during that same mission.

I believe Pap felt he had to tell Granny about the soldiers he had silently mourned for so many years before he passed away.

I’m positive the patriotism Pap instilled in each of his children and grandchildren came from his great respect to every soldier who served; especially those who perished fighting valiantly in battle and while going about their daily duties giving the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.


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  • Reply
    Midsouth OBGYN
    June 8, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Great, i love it!

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    May 30, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Very touching memorial to Pap. Something I’ve always believed is those who honorably and successfully serve in the United States military answer a “calling,” similar to the calling that clergy receive, and to those who serve honorably and successfully, I believe, at least in my own experience, that it’s a calling that never goes away until our dying day.
    Thank God for those people.
    Prayers for them all, and for those often struggling mightily to keep the home fires burning in their absence.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Just outside the city limits of Morganton, N.C. stands a replica of the Iwo Jima Monument. Built and maintained by Clyde Baird it stands as a memorial to his brother and hero Rondall Baird who was among the first Marines to land on the island. Rondall died 4 March 1945, not quite 19 years old. This is a touching story that everybody ought to read. There was an article in the Charlotte Observer in 2011 I’ll bet you can’t read it without crying.
    I drove by there often for years without knowing the story behind the structure. Reading the article brought new meaning and now I can’t drive by without getting a little teary-eyed.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    May 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Just now had time to listen to Pap sing and pick.Went to church and the grave yard.What a beautiful song!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    May 29, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    TIPPER: I hope you read this post – as it is kind of LATE! I just returned from my HIGH SCHOOL REUNION in Hayesville and I am still coming back down to earth. It was so beautiful – even if our numbers have decreased AGAIN! So many classmates work so hard to provide us a beautiful setting and meaningful visitation!
    HOWEVER BEFORE Jim and I went to the reunion, we parked our car ‘on the Square’ in Hayesville and stood before the beautiful MILITARY MEMORIAL MONUMENT! If you have not visited it – I know you would be impressed. At that moment, I was so touched, I called my brother – WHO DID THREE ROTATIONS IN VIETNAM – and left him a tearful message – relative to the display about the ONLY CLAY COUNTY SOLDIER WHO LOST HIS LIFE IN VIETNAM! My brother knows all the details about this soldier – and the meaningful details should be shared on this special weekend!
    Kindly, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Yes there is a dying grace for those who are the Lord’s. Just what all it includes I do not know. But I am convinced its end is to the leave no unfinished business so as to meet him without shame. And I am equally sure that for a man like your Dad, his greatest concern was for those who would miss him and how he could lighten the grief for them. I think it is very clear in your posts that he succeeded. He could not take all the sorrow away but he could greatly lessen it.
    I have known several instances of that very thing. And I count on it for myself. It is for us who are leaving to prepare those we leave.
    We remember.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    This Decoration Day brings many memories, my oldest brother being in the Korean War and my just older brother being in the Viet Nam War. A lot of my friends served and never came home, while others still suffer many afflictions. I’m glad Pap offered his memories of service for all his family.
    I just got back from Valleytown Baptist and received a true blessing today. A few of the Blind Pig family members were there including Tipper, Paul, Chitter and Chatter. Such harmony among them and the playing was terrific. I noticed Donna Lynn just couldn’t hardly contain herself during the music. My aunt’s best friend, Mildred Johnson was also there and I was invited to join in a dinner afterwards. Everyone was real friendly and most of ’em, I didn’t even know…Ken

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    I had the privilege to be in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day and watch “Rolling Thunder” roll down Constitution Ave. It was very moving. We spent the day at all the monument, did rubbings at the Vietnam Wall for those we knew. To share this day with thousands of other people who were likewise remembering and honoring our veterans….fallen, missing, wounded and active was so heart felt. Tears rolled down my cheeks over and over again. The items and messages left at the Vietnam Wall was a real tear jerker. May we never forget those who have given so much for us.

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    May 29, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Tipper our daughter and her family lived in DC for a while and on my last visit she wanted to take a visit of my choice in DC and I chose Iwo Jima monument. I have read about the story of this part of history and the young soldiers who had such a wanting to be a soldier
    for our nation and a patriotic job for our country. We went to the statute and there was no one around that day I walked around each plaque and read what was on each plaque. The statute was a lot bigger than I’d seen in pictures. I’m glad I took the opportunity to see it. A true picture of dedication and work of our veterans who were drafted into the war. I felt so patriotic and proud to be a tiny part of this great nation!
    Thank you for this post!
    Carol R.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    May 29, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I joined the Marines in 1955. I was seventeen years old. Looking back, I can see it was all about adventure and opportunity. I, too share a lot of memories. Pap and I have a lot in common. After Korea and before Vietnam, it was a good time to be a Marine. No combat.
    I am very concerned about the way the young, especially boys and young men are taken for granted as to military service in our country. Veterans today are suffering needlessly. The most genuine expression of Patriotism is quite possibly military service.
    My flag is flying today as a reminder, a symbol, of dedication to Justice for all the brave men and women who have died in military service. I might have known Pap. Probably not, but I feel very close to him and his family today.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 29, 2016 at 10:00 am

    A wonderful thumbnail history of Memorial Day.
    “Lest we forget…”
    The sacrifice of lives,
    The love for country,
    The fight for freedom,
    The will to make better,
    The struggle to keep us all free
    In a land we love and honor:
    These are remembered on Memorial Day.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    May 29, 2016 at 9:42 am

    It’s a thousand wonders those marines didn’t tear that town apart.My guess is they were restricted to ship and couldn’t go back into town.Being a veteran of the army I know a little of how that works.
    While growing up we always called this holiday,Decoration Day.Don’t hear that as much nowdays.
    GOD bless you and yours.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 9:12 am

    It is important that one remember that when in a foreign country, you are a guest. Following the rules of that country makes your stay a safer one. The rules of discipline are different from American laws. God bless our lost/forgotten troops. May God bless our current soldiers as they protect our country.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Deep hidden sorrows seem to find there way to the top at just the right time,, we all carry them… not always reviling themselves by choice, it just happens.. This Memorial Day is a Day of Sorrow but a Proud and Thankful Day for all those who were willing to give the ultimate..

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 29, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Tip, that’s beautiful. I see him there and I can’t believe he is gone. I guess he’s not really gone he will always be with us. He raised you well, taught you to be strong, and you are. His legacy goes on, it performed in Blairsville yesterday and at Valley town Church in Andrews today. He will never really be gone.
    You honor him well, with your very being!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 29, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Tipper. Like Pap, I missed combat, reporting to 1st Infantry Division in Ft. Riley, Kansas about 7 months after “The Big Red One” returned from Vietnam. My closest brush with combat was payday in Junction City, Kansas! I certainly had it way easier than friends who were in the Army very shortly before me.
    We know that Pap is at peace now in the presence of his Lord.

  • Reply
    Sunny Shores
    May 29, 2016 at 6:10 am

    This is so touching – sharing those memories must have been so raw for you. Thank you, I can get a better appreciation for what the men in my life that I lost & didn’t get to know –what they had to go through & sacrifice.

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