Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
As the United States Armed Forces began their first draft of WWI, the Carter County Herald, in their May 24, 1917 edition, estimated that the first draft would “get 74 Carter Boys” for the war effort. The article said that about eight percent of the county’s population fell into the eligible range of men age 21 to 30, and that only about four percent of those – one man out of every 25 – would be called to the draft, for their estimated total of 74.
Before the war was over those numbers – both from the draft and volunteers – would be much higher, with the paper running regular lists of young men lost and wounded in the “war to end all wars” over the next year and a half of continuing conflict.
It would also begin cementing a new military tradition for Kentucky families, and a new way for families – some still divided over the Civil War and “Decoration Day” traditions honoring the veterans of that conflict – to come together as countrymen to honor the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in military service.
By the time of the 1921 Memorial Day events, the traditions as we know them today were being set, with the day dedicated to events other than decoration of graves – though then, as today, that was still an important aspect of the holiday.
It would still be decades before events like Grayson’s Memory Days were established to celebrate the entire weekend, and full history of the community. But these early articles from Memorial Days and the sacrifice of a century ago or more give us a unique look at the development of the holiday as we know it today.
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