Out of the mouths of babes.
On a day set aside to honor our nation’s war dead, it was a brief speech from a young girl that set the tone for the Memorial Day service at Bayview Cemetery Monday morning.
“We come here today to honor those who gave their lives,” said 14-year-old Krista Drechsel, this year’s Poppy Girl for American Legion Post 141.
“All branches of the military should be remembered, not for what they fought against, but for what they fought for.”
The quiet, reverent ceremony took place under a shroud of gray skies, raindrops pattering lightly down throughout most of the service.
A Marine Corps League honor guard started the observance, marching down the lane and standing at rest at one end of the graveyard. American Legion Post 141 Commander John Hilberg was the master of ceremonies, and post chaplain, Pastor Darrel Wenzek, gave the invocation.
“We remember the men and women who have given their lives so we can offer this prayer to you,” he prayed.
Guest speaker for the ceremony, Jeff Lauderdale, echoed the sentiment.
“Today we honor America’s patriots,” Lauderdale said.
“Their sacrifice serves as a reminder of the high cost of freedom and our hope for a safer, more free world.”
Lauderdale praised the American Legion and the Veterans Resource Center, who organized the ceremony, along with a potluck and a remembrance ceremony at the post following the cemetery service. He said Memorial Day offers the “opportunity to think about our country, our birthright and the responsibility of citizenship.”
“The mortar that binds us together is mixed with the blood and tears of those who died in battle,” he said. “We can never repay that debt. We must ensure that their memory and their spirit do not die with them.”
Also important to remember, said Lauderdale, are those who returned from battle, but at a cost.
“We must also remember those who returned with the scars of the battle of war,” he said. “Today is mostly about refusing to forget. Let us resolve to renew our commitment to peace, freedom and prosperity.”
Following a rifle ceremony by the Marine Corps League honor guard, the sound of “Taps” floated across the cemetery as a member of the American Legion played the 24-note homage.
Glen Vaughn, an Army veteran who came to the ceremony in uniform, teared up when asked what should be remembered on Memorial Day.
“The men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, his voice breaking. “And the dedication of all the volunteers who have served.”