“Was it worth it?”
That is the question American Legion Post 89 commander Larry Shelly posed to the crowd gathered for the annual Memorial Day service Monday morning along Soldier’s Row at Riverview Cemetery in Seymour.
“This is a question, sometimes politically-loaded, that is often asked of family members and war buddies of our fallen heroes,” Shelly said.
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But it’s a question he doesn’t think can be answered by anyone but those who gave their lives while serving their country in the military.
Instead, Shelly said it is up to surviving loved ones and everyone else living to “make it worth it.”
“We should insist that America remain the land of the free. A land where patriotism trumps politics, where the American flag is displayed proudly and frequently and where military veterans are society’s true celebrities,” he said. “We can make the country for which they have died a better place — one that honors their sacrifice and epitomizes the ideals enshrined in our Constitution.”
His speech resonated with many of those in attendance who came to remember and honor fallen family members.
Judy Walters of French Lick said she comes back to Seymour for the service every year. Having lived here the first 50 years of her life, she still has family and friends in the area and many relatives buried in the cemetery.
Before the service Monday, Walters and her great-granddaughters, Hannah Mattingly and Sianna and Mekhia Punch, placed flowers on grave markers, including Walters’ stepfather, Harold Black, who served in World War II.
“It’s why we come back,” she said. “I enjoy the service and it makes me feel good to be here.”
She was happy to see that all of the veterans’ graves had been marked with flags, which were placed last week by members of the legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925.
“These small flags represent a physical presence of those who have gone before us,” Shelly said. “We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of our country and have since laid down their burdens of life and have gone to their eternal rest.”
Honoring men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice is not only a good thing to do, it’s the right thing to do, Walters added.
“It’s important that we remember what they did,” she said.
Walters also has a son and brother who served.
During the service, Walters said she can imagine her father is looking down on them.
“He was a tail gunner, so when they play taps and the plane flies over, I can see him up there, and I want to say ‘Dad, we’re here. Thank you,’” she said.
Deloris Garrett of Indianapolis also comes back to Seymour every Memorial Day to remember family members who served.
She placed flowers on her brother, Clarence Edmonds and her uncle, Jack Edmonds, graves, both of whom served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
“I’ve been coming here every year since I was a little girl,” she said. “Even though I didn’t know my brother, I did know my uncle, and it’s emotional. My mother died 20 years ago and I made a promise to her that I would be here to take care of it for her.”
During the service, three wreaths were laid at the veterans memorial gravestone. One represented the Veterans of Foreign Wars Buddy Poppy initiative, which raises money for veterans and their families.
The second wreath was the Gold Star Mothers’ wreath which was placed by Jenny Himelrick, who lost her son, Darin Ogden, 26, when he was killed in an explosion on the USS Iowa in 1989 near Puerto Rico.
The third wreath represented the American Legion Auxiliary.
Shelly said the service is a tradition the legion is proud to uphold.
“May this service of today deepen our reverence for our departed friends and family, and for this day that is dedicated to those men and women,” he said. “While there is nothing unpatriotic about an auto race, a trip to the beach or a barbecue, we are here today to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“Let us remember that tyrannical regimes have been toppled and genocides stopped because Americans sacrificed life and limb,” Shelly added. “Let us remember that terrorist plots were foiled and killers brought to justice because Americans were willing to pay a high price.”
And without the U.S. military, the world would be a far more oppressive and darker place, he said.
“Let us remember that freedom never had a greater friend than the American soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman,” he said. “While some gave their all, we should more willingly give much to help keep our nation worthy of their sacrifices.”