An early summer breeze whipped the multitude of American flags adorning the Great Bend Municipal Cemetery Monday morning. The bright red, white and blue of the banners stood out against the backdrop of a deep blue sky.
Then, the stillness at the Veterans Circle was pierced by the mournful notes of “Taps” blown by a solitary trumpeter reverberated among the decorated headstones and other grave markers.
This somber tribute punctuated the 2013 Memorial Day 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.
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.
“We are here to honor our fallen comrades,” said Master of Ceremonies John Johnson, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3111 and a Vietnam War Army veteran. “Each and every one of us owes a huge debt to those who came before us. We are here to attempt repayment in the form of remembrance.”
We may never be able to replace these lives,” he said. But, we can honor them.
“There is strength in numbers,” Johnson said. “Right always overcomes wrong.”
He also took time to recognize those still serving and their families. “There is nothing stronger than a military family.”
He ended by asked those attending to promise one thing – never forget.
The Rev. Dick Ogle gave both the invocation and benediction.
“God has brought this great nation into existence,” he said. He also said those who fought for that nation laid down a great challenge for the rest of us. “We pray that we are adequate to the challenge of the future.”
After “Taps,” the celebration moved to the Arkansas River bridge south of Great Bend to honor service personnel who died at sea.
As the crowd dispersed, many lingered and walked among the grave markers and crosses, each with a small American flag placed their by Cub an 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 Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3111, said post Commander Jake Radke. Other groups taking part included American Legion Auxiliary Post 180, Sons of the American Legion Squad 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, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 27, Boy Scout Troops 149 and 157, and Girl Scout Troop 20210.
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.