Drive-thru cemetery processions honor state’s military

Delaware Patriot Guard riders lead the motorcycle gathering into Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro for Saturday’s Memorial Day drive-thru procession. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

MILLSBORO — A new true “Memorial Day” tradition very may have been born in Delaware with Saturday’s processional salutes honoring men and women in America’s military who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

With sizeable turnouts, drive-thru processions were held Saturday at Delaware’s two Veterans Memorial Cemetery locations, in Bear and Millsboro — the day officially recognized in the First State as Memorial Day.

“The 30th of May is Memorial Day. It is not the national holiday,” said VFW Post 3420 member Tom DiOrrio, Senior Vice Commander for the Department of Delaware VFW who will become the State Commander June 6. “The state of Delaware celebrates Memorial Day on the 30th May. That is when we do all our services.”

Due to current conditions due to the pandemic, some ceremonies were cancelled, including the traditional ceremony at the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

Marc Garduno, Department of Delaware Commander of the VFW, hands out poppies following the drive-thru procession at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro.

Kim Petters, of VFW Post 3238 in Camden, spearheaded the organizational mission that culminated in processional parades of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Vehicles slowly circled through the two cemeteries, to a backdrop of American flags placed at the graves of veterans buried there.

“It’s a beautiful tribute to our fallen and Gold Star families,” said Ms. Petters. “We’ve had more people than we can count, ask if we are going to do it again next year. And we just feel like the only possible answer to that is ‘yes.’ I think we have started a new tradition. It was beautiful and overwhelming. I don’t know how many times I have cried today.”

“Bringing it to the cemetery brings it home,” said Ms. Petters. “It brings it back to the true meaning of Memorial Day.”

“To me, one of the things we were discussing earlier was we kind of brought the attention where it should be, and that is for the individuals that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Steve McGuire of Newark VFW Post 475, the State Legislative Officer for the VFW. “It brings people’s attention back to that. It brings them to the cemetery and reminds them what we are doing here in this great nation.”

Members of Bikers Without Borders Foundation wind around the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery Saturday during the drive-thru Memorial Day procession honoring America’s military members who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“This day is for … all the military veterans that gave their lives to protect this country,” said Mr. DiOrrio, a proud U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam.

The veterans’ cemetery just north of Millsboro holds a special place in the heart of Greenwood resident Faye Caldwell.

“This is special for me. My husband (Army SPC-4 Dale Caldwell) is buried over there behind the wall. He was a Vietnam veteran. He passed away in 2014 from Agent Orange,” said Ms. Caldwell, Department of Delaware VFW Auxiliary President. “Everything about the veterans is special to me. I am here because of them.”

The Delaware Patriot Guard assisted with traffic flow and pre-processional lineup.

At the Millsboro drive-thru, Millsboro Fire Company provided a huge American flag, hanging from its Ladder-83 apparatus.

At the gathering, Ms. Caldwell offered information and outreach through her project them, which is supporting our veterans through Hidden Heroes.

From left, VFW Post 475 Honor Guard members Gary Frederick, Matt Turner and Tom DiOrrio take aim as John Morrow barks orders.

“Hidden Heroes, as I think of it, are the wives, and the widows and significant others. We are the ones behind the scenes that help veterans when they come home, or the active duty, too,” said Ms. Caldwell. “You don’t know how much we do until you get into it, especially the ones who have been wounded. The extended care that you have to give them, especially in my case, the end of life when my husband was in hospice and I kept him at home.”

“We support each other. I am here. I am trying to educate everybody about that: where they can go; what they can do. It makes a difference,” said Ms. Caldwell. “That’s why I say Hidden Heroes. We’re the Hidden Heroes.”