Memorial Day weekend in Ardmore concluded with blue skies, solemn remembrance and time spent with loved ones. 

The day began with a ceremony at the Ardmore Veterans Center, where Carter County’s Veterans Council and Gold Star Mothers were recognized before Veterans Center Administrator Shawn Kirkland addressed the audience.  

After the ceremony, the crowd went their separate ways. Lake Murray State Park was full of people swimming, boating and fishing, families took advantage of the splash pads at city parks, and the heat wasn’t quite bad enough to keep people out of the sun. 

Tom Evans, a veteran, spent the afternoon at a cookout with his family at Lake Murray State Park, something they’ve done in previous years. Kids played catch while adults relaxed in the shade.  

Evans enlisted in the Army in 1966, where he served as a Morse code interceptor.

“It’s a thing of the past now, it’s unheard of,” Evans said. “They don’t do that in the service anymore.”

Evans also attended the Memorial Day service at the Ardmore Veterans Center that morning, something he always makes a point of doing. He said while Ardmore is generally supportive of veterans, some things about Memorial Day have gotten lost in translation over time. 

“A lot of people don’t understand,” Evans said. “People understand what Veterans Day is. That’s honoring all veterans. Memorial Day is honoring all the ones who’ve given their lives.”

He said some things aren’t as commonly understood as they used to be. The significance of poppies, for example, comes from the World War I era poem “In Flanders Fields.” He said when he told a family member he’d volunteered to hand out poppies at the ceremony that morning, they didn’t understand its symbolic meaning.  

“I read that poem in school, and that was in a one-room school house in South Dakota,” Evans said. “We all knew it.”

Not 10 miles away from the Evans and their extended family, Jonnie Joe and her family threw a get-together at Walker Park. Kids played at the playground while adults cooked burgers and chatted under a pavilion. 

“We spend as much time as we can with each other,” Joe said. 

Joe said most of her family lives in the Ardmore area, where ties to the military and World War II in particular are strong. Her father-in-law, Donald Joe, who passed away two years ago, served in the Air Force. 

Her grandfather, who served in the Army, was killed in France in 1944. Her family has a reference book with a record of Carter County veterans who served in World War II. 

“On days like this we think about it, who we’ve lost,” Joe said.