Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice


Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice

Photo and story courtesy of the Fremont Tribune.

Crews were barely a block away working to remove fallen tree limbs and restore electrical power to a section of Fremont as the annual Memorial Day service began at 11 a.m. Monday at the Memorial Park Eternal Flame.

With chainsaws audible nearby and a toppled small tree lying in the park, State Sen. Charlie Janssen pointed out, however, that Sunday night’s weather was actually pleasant before foul weather rolled in at about 1:40 a.m. Monday, prompting a tornado warning.

Janssen, in fact, was relaxing on his deck Sunday night, listening to the music from a neighbor’s party, when a country music song made him think about the Memorial Day speech he would give.

The lyrics, “I got my toes in the water, (backside) in the sand … Life is good today,” stirred memories of a time when he had his own “toes in the water” as a U.S. Navy rescue swimmer during the Gulf War. That made him reflect, he said, on all the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

“I thought about all the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have shed blood in the sand and in the water, on the shores, in the deserts, storming beaches, islands they’ve never seen, the things that we call the battlefields across the world,” he said.

Janssen, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 854 senior vice commander and a candidate for governor, later participated in laying a wreath in memory of fallen service members. Representatives of American Legion Post 20, Disabled American Veterans Post 19, Vietnam Veterans of America Post 397, and their auxiliaries also laid wreaths.

Rollie Otte and Kyle Krula played "Taps." The honor guard from VFW Post 854 and American Legion Post 20 fired a salute.

Mayor Scott Getzschman talked about the history of Memorial Day, first observed in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Today we honor the fallen heroes that paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We also honor those that continue to serve this great nation,” Getzschman said.

He said he and his wife recently traveled across the state on Nebraska Highway 12, visiting numerous communities along the way.

“We were humbled,” he said, “by the way these small communities showed their spirit in remembrance of the fallen dead, the POWs, and those that continue to serve Nebraska and the United States.”

“Oh Lord almighty, remember those who lived and died fighting to protect the dignity and the freedom of mankind,” he said. “Let our spirits be proud of them, let our hearts by compassionate and our minds clear and determined in giving them honor and respect...”

Post 854 Commander Dale Fenske said recognizing armed forces members who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty is a main concern of the VFW.

“We must never forget what this event is meant for,” he said.

In Cedar Bluffs, Comm. Sgt. Major Patrick Z. Alston reminded those in attendance at the village's annual service the sacrifices that have been made in the War on Terror.

"In Iraq alone, we lost 4,488 service members. And just the other day, the number hit 2,133 lives lost in Afghanistan," Alston said. "Many of them died protecting one another, but they served so that we can have the freedom that we enjoy each and day.

"Observances like this are happening all over America today," he added. In small towns and large towns alike. In Cedar Bluffs, Omaha, Council Bluffs, all alike. But that’s not simply enough."

He encourages everyone to remember the true meaning of the day.

"It was not supposed to be recognized as the beginning of the summer holidays," Alston said. "It was not supposed to be recognized as a time to go to the beaches. It was not supposed to be recognized as a time for picnics. … It was supposed to be a time to remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"We must never forget what those heroes have done and what their loved ones have lost.”

Due to the rainy weather earlier in the morning, and the threat of more rain later in the day, the Avenue of Flags did not post flags.