Radford’s 19th annual Memorial Day service has long local history

Submitted Photo
Members of Radford American Legion Post 776 fire a 21-gun salute to conclude the annual Memorial Day service in Bisset Park at a previous year’s event. Shown conducting the volley (left) is Nick Nicholson, co-founder of the annual service. Nicholson, 92, was a Tech Sgt, U.S. Army, and Past Commander, Radford VFW Post 776. Nicholson died last year, and will be honored at this years’ service.

Twenty years ago, the Commander of the VFW Post 776, Nick Nicholson, and then Radford bureau chief of a local daily paper, Bob Thomas, had a conversation about the limited Memorial Day event in Radford, a city which has lost 59 in various wars.

At the time, the VFW held a brief private marking of the event at the local cemetery or at the VFW building. Both decided that a full community ceremony should be planned for the following year, and began contacts with those who might join in making it all happen. A totally volunteer committee was formed.

Nineteen years ago, the first Memorial Day service was held at the Gazebo in Bisset Park, and the event has grown measurably since that initial attempt.

Interestingly, for several previous years, another marking of Memorial Day was being carried out annually by the local Ruritan club – a massing of flags on the hillside at the end of Memorial Bridge, below Radford High School. Ruritan joined in the plans for the larger combined event. The flags are placed on the hillside on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, an auspicious start for the remembrance.

Post 30 of the American Legion, which had been marking the day with a small ceremony, reading the names of the 59 Radford military lost at war in front of their War Memorial building on Main Street, joined in the Bisset Park event, adding their reading of the names as a major part of the ceremonies.

Titular Sponsors are VFW Post 776, American Legion Post 30, Vietnam Veterans, Dublin-Radford Ruritan, Radford News Journal, WRAD AM 1460.

This years’ service is set for Monday, May 29, 11 am at the gazebo in Bisset Park, open to the public rain or shine. The service features a field of crosses, the Radford High School band and choir; speakers LTC Alicia Masson, RAAP Commander, Delegate Joseph Yost (R-12th), Dana Jackson of the American Legion Post 30 reading the names of the 59 lost in wars, Radford Vice Mayor Richard Harshberger; a 21-gun salute, and more.

A brief remembrance of Nicholson’s contributions to the event will be a part of this year’s service.

The service is broadcast live on WRAD, AM 1460.

— Bob Thomas

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