Soldier salutes wreath in front of Peace Monument (Photo by J Swygart)
Services to honor the county's war past and present war veterans were held in Geneva, Berne and Decatur over the Memorial Day weekend, with large crowds at all three events.
Decatur Mayor John Schultz struggled at times to keep his emotions in check as he spoke in front of the Peace Monument on the courthouse square in front of the assembled crowd about the sacrifices made by American service men and women.
Schultz, who served in Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Army, said that while past conflicts may be "fading into memory," military members have continued to pay the ultimate price in more recent years in Operation Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
He mourned the loss of 4,500 U.S. military forces in Iraq, "and we continue to lose comrades in Afghanistan. It is never over, and the pain of their absences endures," said Schultz.
"The loss to families, friends and county is permanent, and remembering our fallen comrades once a year is not enough. Others enjoy freedoms because of the sacrifices they have made."
Schultz said more than 1 million Americans have made that sacrifice, from the Revolutionary War to the current war against terrorism. "That is why we are gathered here today — to honor the memory of our fallen heroes who gave all for the sake of freedom."
He said Americans throughout the history of this country have answered the nation's call "for God, country, family and patriotism, and for our children, so they can grow up in a nation strong and free."
Schultz said it is the obligation of this country to care for the surviving family members of the nation's war heros, and he saluted the American Legion for doing just that with nationwide programs to ensure college educations for the children of deceased veterans.
"Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades, but it is really about remembering those who made our way of life possible. God bless them, and God bless you for being here today," Schultz said.
The American Legion post 43 color guard and firing squad began Monday's Decatur ceremony at the Decatur Catholic Cemetery and then moved to the Decatur Cemetery for short services.
At 10 a.m., a short parade from the Legion post to the Jackson Street Bridge was held, where a wreath was placed in the river with a salute to honor those who died serving this country. A 21-gun salute capped that ceremony before the assembly moved to the courthouse square.
Following Schultz's address, wreaths were placed at markers in front of the Peace Monument denoting each of the country's wars and conflicts.
At a similar service Saturday morning at the Geneva Veterans Memorial in downtown Geneva, Berne American Legion Commander Les Wagner encouraged those in attendance to "renew our pledge of loyalty to our country" at this time.
"Because of veterans, our lives are free. When peril threatened and our country called, they sprang to arms against our nation's foes. They fought for us, and for us they fell. With deepest reverence we honor them and the loved ones they left behind," Wagner said.
Guest speaker for that event was Rodney Funk, Senior Vice President of the Indiana Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Wagner was joined by local resident Pam Krause in placing a wreath in front of the veteran's memorial.