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Veterans thanks during Memorial Day service
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Master of Ceremonies Darrell Turley, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 27, addresses those gathered for the Great Bend Memorial Day observance at Monday morning at the Great Bend Municipal Cemetery. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

A light late spring wind rippled the multitude of American flags adorning the Great Bend Municipal Cemetery Monday morning for the 2023 Memorial Day service. The bright red, white and blue of the banners stood out against the backdrop of slightly overcast sky.

The quiet at the Veterans Circle was pierced by the mournful notes of Taps blown by solitary trumpeter Marc Webster reverberated among the decorated headstones and other grave markers. 

This somber tribute punctuated the observance as veterans, their loved ones and others gathered to pay homage to America’s fallen service men and women. 

The service opened with the American Legion Riders presenting the colors, and all rose and saluted. This was followed by the invocation by David Huisinger. 

The morning had been filled with remembrances. Representatives of local veterans’ groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts presented placed wreaths honoring the area’s war dead in all conflicts at the foot of the flag pole rising from the circle’s center. They all marched in silence, halted, and placed the tributes, saluted, turned about-face and marched back.

“For many Americans, the last Monday in May marks the unofficial start of summer – a long weekend with a family barbecue or gathering of friends,” said Master of Ceremonies Darrell Turley, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 27. But, for those who served in the military, Memorial Day holds a greater significance, as it commemorates the brave men and women who lost their lives defending our great nation.

“It’s a day all Americans should take a moment to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Memorial Day is a day for both grief and celebration, reflecting on the tragic loss of life and recounting the courageousness of their service,” he said. “The respect and admiration we give our fallen pay tribute to their memory and the lives they lived. We do so by visiting their gravesites or placing flags, wreaths or other mementos at memorials in our communities.”

However, their final resting place should not be the only space we gather, share memories or sit in quiet contemplation. “To truly honor their lives, we must share their stories with others and ensure their memories live on even though they are gone,” Turley said. 

“No matter where their battlefield was – in the mountains of Afghanistan, deserts of Iraq or Syria, skies over Europe, islands of the Pacific, frozen terrain of Korea, jungles of Vietnam or elsewhere – the stories of the fallen matter and need to be told,” he said. “By sharing their stories, we keep their memories alive and give others a glimpse of military service that aims to inspire them to create a better world, stronger nation and kinder communities.

“Duty, honor, country—they lived for it. And they died for it,” he said. “As a nation, we must remind ourselves of the future they fought for and do our best to live up to those values in the days ahead.” 

Among the many present were several veterans of various ages. Many wore at least a part of their uniforms.

As the crowd dispersed, many lingered and walked among the grave markers and crosses, each with a small American flag placed their by Cub and Boy scouts last week. Some just looked. Some looked for specific headstones – those of family members or loved ones.

This year’s observation was organized by Disabled American Veterans Chapter 27. Other groups taking part included American Legion Post 180, American Legion Auxiliary Post 180, Sons of the American Legion Squad 180, The American Legion Riders Post 180, Veterans of foreign Wars Post 3111, Veterans of foreign Wars Auxiliary Post 3111,   Boy Scout Troop 157, and Girl Scout Troop 11135.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to remember who have died in our nation’s service. It was born out of the carnage of the Civil War was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868. It has since become a federal holiday observed on the first Monday of May to honor the fallen of all conflicts. Turley said.

The celebration adjourned to the Arkansas River Bridge south of Great Bend to honor those who died at sea by releasing wreaths into the river. After that, they journeyed to the Barton County Veterans Memorial at Golden Belt Memorial Park north of town to place wreaths.

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Attendees at the Great Bend Memorial Day observance Monday morning at the Great Bend Municipal Cemetery look over the headstones prior to the start of the service. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune