The stiff, chilly breeze whipped the multitude of American flags watching over the Memorial Day service Monday morning, and the popping sound they made reverberated in Veterans Circle at Great Bend Cemetery. They appeared to be standing at attention, honoring those being recognized for their sacrifices.
The weather was brisk and an intermittent light rain fell on the scant crowd gathered. Many huddled under umbrellas as they paid homage to those who died in service to this nation, as well as the family members those fallen warriors left behind.
“For the second year in a row, Memorial Day looks a little different,” said American Legion Post 180 Finance Officer Bob Jarmer in his address. But, as Americans emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic to life as it was, we can’t forget that for many, things will never be normal.
“Their sacrifice is an example of selfless service,” he said of those died. For family and friends, this day is a painful reminder of empty chairs and lives cut short.
“They are the best America has to offer,” Jarmer said. “We feel their loss.”
It is up to us to remember their stories and honor their service, he said.
Furthermore, Jarmer said the grace shown by the relatives still at home is inspiring. There was a moment of silence honoring the home front survivors.
“We are in our 20th year of war,” he said. In that time, over 2.7 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, over half more than once.
Many of these veterans are now living and working among us, Jarmer said. We must be willing to listen to them and welcome them back into society.
The somber service Monday also included: The presentation of the American flag by the Legion Riders Post 180; an invocation and benediction by Jeannie Munsch; and the placing of wreaths by various veterans organizations, the Boy Scouts of America troops 157 and 184 and the Girl Scouts of America Troop 11135. The observance ended as Taps pierced the stillness.
After the ceremony, the proceedings adjourned to the Arkansas River bridge just south of Great Bend to honor those who died at sea. Service organizations representatives released wreaths into the river.
Then, the service moved to the Barton County Veterans Memorial at Golden Belt Memorial Park for a laying of wreaths.