Observing Memorial Day in Woodbridge

Observing Memorial Day in Woodbridge
Visiting Eastside Cemetery on Memorial Day 2024

Memorial Day, initially called Decoration Day, is an annual commemoration honoring those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. Observed on the last Monday of May, on this federal holiday volunteers place American flags on the graves of military personnel in our local cemeteries, while family and friends also visit to pay their respects at the graves of those who served. But who were the men and women from Woodbridge who served, and how much do we know about their final resting places? Let's begin by looking at the details of a recent Eagle Scout Project...

Eagle Scout Sign at Eastside Cemetery
Eagle Scout Sign at Milfordside Cemetery
Eagle Scout Sign at Northwest Cemetery

Of the service members listed at Eastside Cemetery at the time of Jason Luciani's Eaglescout Project with troop 907, research had indicated that just two had 'died in action' — William Thurston Gilbert, Jr. (1924-1944) and Frederick Walter Holloway, Jr. (1919-1943). It should be noted that both these young men are actually memorialized at Eastside with what is known as a cenotaph – a monument erected in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere. These often serve as symbolic memorials for those who died in military contexts, where their bodies might not be recoverable or may be buried in distant locations. In the case of William who died December 24th 1944, the gravestone in the Gilbert family plot states that he is "interred Netherland American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Holland."

Cenotaph for William T. Gilbert, Jr. at Eastside Cemetery

And although it is not stated on his gravestone at Eastside, Frederick who was reported missing in action on February 7th 1943, is also "commemorated in perpetuity" at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in the United Kingdom.

Cenotaph for Frederick w. Holloway, Jr. at Eastside Cemetery

Other cenotaphs at Eastside Cemetery include one that honors Bruce Baldwin (1838-1862) who died at age 24 while serving with Company F of the 6th Infantry Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers during the Civil War. Bruce died on November 11, 1862 in Hilton Head, South Carolina and is also memorialized there with a veteran's gravestone in Beaufort National Cemetery where his body is likely interred.

Cenotaph for Bruce Baldwin at Eastside Cemetery

Another young man who gave his life in service to the country is honored with a flag on Memorial Day and throughout the year, Fred Thornhill Barnes (1891-1918). He was a 26 year-old Sergeant serving with Company K of the 84th U.S. infantry when he died of Lobar Pneumonia on October 4th 1918. These were the earliest days of what would become known as the Spanish Flu — a pandemic illness likely as contagious and deadly as the COVID19 virus that appeared just over 100 years later — which was spreading rapidly among service members in the fall of 1918.

Gravestone of Fred T. Barnes at Eastside Cemetery

Additional veteran's graves at Eastside, many for individual's interred since the Eaglescout Project's listing was printed for the cemetery's display, are included in the memorial pages at the website of Find A Grave.

Over the years, some visits to local cemeteries to pay respects to family who have served.