Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2021 Chaplain Dennis Furguson asks for a moment of silence as the annual ceremony commences at 11 a.m. Memorial Day at the Vernon Cemetery. We are here to forever remember those who served with sincere reverence, he told the smaller-than-usual crowd.—Staff Photos by Barbara King
Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedoms we Americans enjoy today were remembered at the annual Memorial Day service at the Vernon Cemetery. Once again, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2020, as they have year after year, presented the ritual honoring the patriotism, courage and dedication of those who serve in the Armed Forces.
This year, the crowd attending was markedly smaller due to COVID-19; however, the virus did nothing to deter the inspiration three speakers sparked as they spoke briefly on this all-American holiday.
Col. Steve Graham's inspiration was three men who died in combat during World War II who were honored posthumously for their valiant deeds defending their fellow soldiers against the enemy.
Doris Miller, a mess attendant in the Navy stationed on his ship at Pearl Harbor. He had no training but took it upon himself to man anti-aircraft guns during the infamous attack on Dec. 7, 1941. He was later awarded the Navy Cross and was honored by having an aircraft carrier named after him in recent years. He died in 1943 when the USS Lincome Bay he was serving on was struck by a Japanese torpedo.
Butch O'Hare was an American aviator who on Feb. 2, 1942 became the first flying ace of WWII when he single-handedly attacked a formation of nine bombers threatening his aircraft carrier and downed five of the enemy's planes. His deeds were credited with saving his ship. He received the Medal of Honor in 1942. He was killed in a pioneering night foray against Japanese torpedo planes later in the war, described as an exceedingly dangerous mission. Chicago's O'Hare Airport is named in his honor.
Albert Munroe was posthumously honored with the Medal of Honor for his service in the U.S. Coast Guard, the only person to have received this honor in that service. Munroe was credited for saving 500 servicemen in the European Theater during WW II. He placed his own boat between the beach head and the enemy, allowing soldiers to escape to safety. He, too, was honored with the Medal of Honor.
Vet to Vet President Willie Steele told those present that as he thought about his message, he realized what needed to be said has already been said. He quoted former President Ronald Reagan who spoke at an Arlington National Cemetery service on Memorial Day. As he took in the countless white tombstones across the large burying ground, the president noted all these men and women laid to rest there were different in many ways but bound eternally by their love of America.
Steele also quoted President Barack Obama who said the nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes which can never fully be repaid; but we can honor their sacrifice by keeping their memories close to our hearts and heeding the example they set in life.
New Veterans Service Officer Dan Brookbank took the opportunity to introduce himself and announce his office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thurday and Friday 8 to 5:30. Call 812-953-0068 for an appointment. He also gave examples of the many services and benefits the federal, state and county have to offer those who have served their nation.
The service concluded with a unique "double 'Taps'" performance by Gene Rudicel, who played the traditional score while it was echoed by not one, but two instruments played by Bob Rudicel and JCHS senior Johnathan Ritchie.