Like blurs of red, white and blue, American flags of all sizes popped as they whipped in the early summer breeze Monday morning at Great Bend Municipal Cemetery’s Veterans Circle.
Then, the mournful notes of “Taps” from a solitary trumpeter pierced the otherwise silent air – a chilling end to 2012 Memorial Day observation. The service opened with the American Legion Riders presenting the colors.
It had been a sunny morning of somber presentations. Representatives of local veterans’ groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts presented laid wreaths memorializing the area’s war dead in all conflicts at the foot of the flag pole rising from the circle’s center. They all quietly marched to the spot, placed the tributes, saluted, turned about-face and marched back.
“Memorial Day is celebrated in may ways,” said guest speaker Buck Causey, a member of the American Legion Post 180 Legion Riders and a Vietnam War Air Force veteran. But, despite trips to the lake, “it is a day to remember and honor the ones who made our freedom possible – the American Soldier.”
He tearfully recounted a story of a friend of his whose father was a pilot in Vietnam and died in action in 1967. His remains weren’t found until 2010 and identified in January 2011.
“That’s 44 years,” Causey said. The remains have since been returned to the United States.
“This tells me how relentless America is in accounting for every fallen soldier who died so we could continue to have our freedom.” Thousands have died, he said. Countless others were injured, including families devastated by war.
“As you visit the grave of a fallen soldier or meet a soldier wounded from combat, remember they are the legacy of freedom,” he said. “They teach us, our children and our grandchildren the value of sacrifice.”
War is a terrible thing, he said, and the sacrifices tremendous. “Sometimes we ask ourselves ‘why are we in other parts of the world.’ The answer ladies and gentlemen is ‘freedom.’”
He challenged those present to thank vets for their service. “Above all, thank God for each brave soldier who gave their life for your freedom.”
The Rev. Bill Johnson, the legion post chaplain, gave both the invocation and benediction.
“We would not be here without the sacrifices of the men and women who have died in conflicts past and present,” he said in his opening prayer. He also said we shouldn’t forget those serving now.
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 capped 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 Great Bend American Legion Argonne Post 180, said post Commander Bob Jarmer. 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.