Community celebrates Memorial Day

BEAVER SPRINGS – Under a vividly blue Sunday sky 150 years after his death, Civil War veteran David Getz received an honor he’d long been without – a metal grave marker recognizing his duty and sacrifice.

“Memorial Day isn’t just a three-day holiday or the beginning of summer. It’s a day to honor the memory of those who have given their lives,” said Jay Rarick, a descendant of the Getz family.

Rarick, whose great-great grandmother, Mary Getz, was David Getz’s sister, spoke at the ceremony, which was arranged by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He is senior vice commander with the organization’s Irish Brigade Camp No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Va.

David Getz and his six brothers joined the war effort, as did two of their brothers-in-law and one of David’s nephews, a young man named George.

Of these 10 men, four were wounded in battle and two – David, 39, and George, 19 – died of their wounds.

At the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia, David suffered a severe leg wound. He spent the night on the battlefield, Rarick said, and may have witnessed a rare aurora borealis in the December sky.

“Eventually, David was evacuated” to a hospital in Washington, D.C., Rarick said, and later was taken by a few of his brothers back to his home near Beaver Springs.

He died nine months later, on Sept. 22, 1863.

“You paid your dues now rest in peace,” said James Hartley, a member of the General J.P.S. Gobin Camp No. 503, an arm of the Sons of Union Veterans.

Also attending the grave marker dedication was Mary Anne Getz and her husband, Bob, of Newville. Bob is related to Isaac Getz, one of David’s brothers who returned from the war.

With them was Julie Getz Kurtz, her husband Jeff and their children, Jenna, 14, and Jared, 12.

“Every man in our life has been a veteran,” Julie said. Her husband is a Marine.

Memorial Day is a time to consider how much veterans gave of themselves, she said.

“It’s their sacrifice that was given for us to be here, for our freedom.”

Rarick said the Grand Army of the Republic formed in 1866 by the Union Army and was comprised only of veterans.

“It ceased to exist in 1956 with the death of the last (Civil War) veteran,” he said.

In 1881, the Sons of the Union Veterans formed. The Sons of Confederate Veterans support the men who fought for the South.

“One of the things that the Sons organizations want to stress is a return to Memorial Day and what it means,” Rarick said.

He hopes that younger generations can learn what the holiday represents from their elders.

“Teach history,” he said, “even the parts that aren’t so nice. That’s the price that our freedom cost. Go to any national cemetery and walk it,” he said. “There’s a story like David Getz’s behind every stone.”