The multitude of American flags adorning the Great Bend Municipal Cemetery Monday morning danced in a stiff early summer breeze. The bright red, white and blue stood out against the sunny sky.
Then, the quiet at the Veterans Circle was broken by the mournful notes of “Taps.”
This somber tribute punctuated the 2022 Memorial Day observance as veterans, loved ones and others honored America’s fallen service men and women. The service began with the American Legion Riders presenting the colors.
The morning had been filled with remembrances. Representatives of local veterans groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts placed wreaths honoring the area’s war dead in all conflicts at the foot of the flagpole rising from the circle’s center. They all marched in silence, halted, and placed the tributes, saluted, turned about-face and marched back.
“It is a day to remember our fallen comrades,” Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3111 Commander Kenny Dreiling said in his address.
He also called attention to the high rates of suicides by service members returning from duty.
“They are not the same when then come home,” he said. He called on society to be more aware of this mental trauma and be willing to offer assistance.
Dreiling also referenced American Civil War officer Gen. John Logan, considered the father of Memorial Day. It was the VFW that organized this year’s service.
Following the war, Logan became the commander and chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union veterans. In an 1868 letter, he issued orders outlining such observances.
“The 30th day of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land,” Logan wrote. “In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”
Dreiling said Logan implored his comrades in arms to strengthen “those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors and marines.”
“What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms.”
He also said they should “guard their graves with sacred vigilance.”
“Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners,” he penned.
Dreiling said this was the duty of Americans “as long as the light and warmth of life remains in us.”
“Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation’s gratitude — the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
“It was the purpose of these orders that such services would be kept up from year to year. He earnestly desired the public press to call attention to this order, and ‘lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith,’” Dreiling said.
The celebration adjourned to the Arkansas River Bridge south of Great Bend to honor those who died at sea and then to the Golden Belt Veterans Memorial north of Great Bend for a brief ceremony and wreath laying.