ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE)- The reading of names and raising of flags are conventional ways of recognizing Memorial Day. They’ve been part of a 25-year tradition at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery. But this year, they’re adding something new: toy soldiers.
“We’re going to be honoring a lot of our veterans and fallen soldiers,” said a man dressed in all green. “Amen to that!” replied a visitor.
That man is Jeremiah Wilson. He’s never served in the military.
“We’re actually doing a live show tomorrow for our veterans,” he said. Wilson approached a family entering the ABQ BioPark. He and other soldiers were there Sunday promoting the event.
He’s an actor and even though he’s getting paid, he says, “This ain’t a job. It’s an honor.”
Technically, he’s working for French Funerals and Cremations– handing out flyers and posing with visitors. But Wilson says he’s also doing it to remember a man he never met– his Dad.
“I recently found him on Ancestry.com,” said Wilson. “25th Infantry division. His name is John Wayne Wilson.”
He didn’t die in combat, but this Memorial Day, Jeremiah will perform to honor those of his dad’s comrades who did.
“Whether they’re boys or girls, they played with these little, green army men,” said French Communications Director Kevin Fuller. “And we’re trying to take that theme to make our point this year.”
Fuller says they’ve decided to take a new approach this year in order to help give this holiday a face.
“It’s more than just having a picnic and a kicking off season,” said Fuller. “When I was a kid, it took me talking to my grandfather, who served in WWII, to understand that this isn’t just another day off from school or the first day of summer,” he added.
For the new event, each actor will take on the role of a different New Mexico soldier who died for his or her country, some of them even buried at Sunset.
The actors will perform and interact one on one with visitors. In turn, Fuller hopes to create lasting impressions.
“Telling those stories keeps their stories and their wonderful acts alive,” explained Fuller.
It’s also why actors like Jeremiah don’t mind sweating through a Sunday.
“Memorial Day’s about them, they’re the ones who sacrificed everything. They gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Wilson.
The Memorial Day event is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sunset Memorial Park, 924 Menaul Blvd. NE. There will also be food trucks and a chance to explore the park.