Reverend Jonathan Buescher started both ceremonies
with an invocation honoring those who have given their lives for the
cause of freedom and those who continue to sacrifice, including the
military families who support those in the service.
Master of Ceremonies Bob McCue said Memorial Day began as a day to
decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers killed in action and now
we salute all veterans who have given their lives. He said we should
salute all heroes living and dead.
Mount Pulaski Mayor Jim Cole welcomed everyone to the service at
Mount Pulaski Cemetery asking for a moment of silence for veterans
who have lost their lives.
The Mount Pulaski High School Band led by David Helm then played the
National Anthem to mark the occasion.
Children were called up to place flowers, to honor the sacrifices at
the memorial in Mount Pulaski Cemetery. Several local organizations
participated in the Laying of Wreaths Ceremony including Brownies
and Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Firefighters, members of
the American Legion and more. Each group presented wreaths for those
who lost their lives in combat.
A member of the Sons of the Legion presented certificates to four
local students who will be going to a Boys' State Conference where
they will learn about our government. These students included Jacob
Mileham, Sebastian Manor, Dawson Hagan and Dixon Aylesworth. Eli
Olson was this years' scholarship winner.
As they have done for several years, students at Mount Pulaski Grade
School and High School competed in a Memorial Day essay contest
sponsored by the Sons of the Legion. Their essays share what
Memorial Day means to them and winners receive a scholarship.
This year's winners were junior high student Colin
and high school student Faith Dewer, who both read
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Tyson's essay talked about his great grandfathers who
fought in World War II and the Korean War, with his paternal great
grandfather being tortured and starved after his capture as a
prisoner of war. Tyson said Memorial Day should not be forgotten and
"will never be in the hearts of our veterans and the families that
have lost a loved one or have one deployed right now fighting for
your freedom." He honored those people.
Tyson said Memorial Day is a day to remember what it
means to be a hero and a day to remember the heroes who gave
Dewer's essay said Memorial Day is often under celebrated. She said
it is "a sacred holiday of remembrance of all the people who have
lost their lives for us to have something to celebrate. It is a
mourning family that lost their beloved soldier and most of all, it
is a country that stands unified in the loss of our soldiers and
takes pride in the battles that placed us where we are today."
Dewer said that over 1 million soldiers have died during wartime and
she finds their bravery humbling. She said parents share their
children's lives to protect us and the families who have lost loved
ones are just as important as those who sacrificed their lives. She
called each one of the million who have died in battle "a hero in my
book" as they help preserve freedom and liberty.
McCue then introduced keynote speaker Colonel William Lee Wheeler of
the Army National Guard. Wheeler serves as Director of Joint
Operation for the Illinois Air National Guard. He has been in the
armed service 41 years and done six combat tours serving in Bosnia,
Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Wheeler said on Memorial Day, Americans "have paused to reflect on
the sacrifices paid on battlefields around the world from Bunker
Hill to Baghdad." He said we need to "honor the lives of those who
fought by remembering the individuals."
Wheeler said we need to remember the thousands of soldiers from
Illinois who sacrificed their lives in the various wars. He said,
"All that we gather to remember have completed their last mission,
but at the same time, have left us with a mission. Our mission is to
remember them [and] to ensure their memory is passed down to future
generations. This is the task we must take without reservation."
Wheeler closed by saying, "I wish to give thanks to our fallen
heroes. May we never forget their sacrifice for this great nation."
After the band played a medley of patriotic tunes that helped
commemorate the various branches of service and Buescher gave a
benediction, the Mount Pulaski American Legion Post 447 and Mount
Pulaski SAL Squadron 447 provided a rifle salute followed by the
playing of Taps.
At the Steenbergen Cemetery, 164 flags that honor veterans from
various wars are displayed during the holiday. A similar service was
held at the chapel (9188) there with Wheeler also reminding everyone
of the sacrifices families make.
At each service, many gathered to help commemorate those who have
served and given their lives for this country.