Monday, May 30, 2011
Memorial Day Service at the Gateway Building
There was a sizable crowd gathered this morning at the Gateway Building on the riverfront to take part in the annual Memorial Day Program. Dr. Vroman and the Peoria Municipal Band gave us an excellent selection of music to set the mood, and Lee Wenger honored us with a few selections as well. The crowd was made up of all ages and services, from honored World War II and Korea and Vietnam Veterans to those of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other peacekeeping actions. Men and women, husbands and wives and families, all gathered on a beautiful spring day to honor the memory of those who have given their lives in defense of this nation.
No one was forgotten in the ceremony. From the memorial for those who died in the Civil War, to the veterans of World Wars I & II, to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the others, including the War on Terrorism, the speakers made plain the fact that, while they were veterans, that they were here not to receive the accolades they so richly deserve for their service, but to honor the memory of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom.
Bugler Ronald Allgaier opened the official ceremonies with Assembly, a song heard many times in our lives by those who served. Rev. Curtis Rowden of the EP Community Church of God gave us our invocation. Robert Derrick, the President of the Peoria Memorial Association, welcomed the crowd, and then turned the ceremony over to Dr. Vroman and the Band to help honor the men and women in the audience who served. The patriotic arrangement included all five service songs (hope you didn't forget the Coast Guard) and members of the audience were asked to stand when their branch song was played. Needless to say, there were a lot of people standing, saluting, and applauding the veterans who stood.
A particularly sober moment came when Maria Kieser, a student from Brimfield High School, presented her essay, "Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility to Preserve It." This essay, sponsored by the Peoria chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was uplifting and should put to rest the sometimes expressed sentiment that the next generation has no idea what the principles of this nation are. Her words drew a grand round of applause from the audience, and their effect was plain on the faces of the crowd.
The Gold Star Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters were introduced next, followed by other veterans on the dais, including Mayor Jim Ardis, Councilman Dan Irving and Councilman Eric Turner, and of course, the guest speaker, Lt. Col. Jon Bateman, US Army Reserve. Col. Bateman's speech was filled with references to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and again brought a somber and prideful feeling to the audience.
Next came the presentations of the wreaths, one wreath for each conflict or war where Americans have lost their lives.
As you can see on the right side of the photo, a total of eight wreaths were laid. Incidentally, the young men and women of the Pimetoui chapter of the US Navy Sea Cadets performed their duties with precision and honor. Their demeanor and obvious pride in serving was an inspiration to all Peorians.
Next the Peoria Band and Lee Wenger invited the audience to join in a rousing version of "God Bless America", and the American Legion Post #2 Rifle Squad, led by Sgt. Richard D. Hazen, fired the traditional 21 gun salute. The ceremony was concluded by the somber tones of Taps presented by Mr. Allgaier.
I guess there are times when opinions are expected in a blog, but this isn't one of them. I will simply say that today I am reminded once again of why I am proud to have served, proud of the men and women I have served with, and proud to be an American.