Francis Probst received a phone call Sunday morning, and on the other end of the line was his grandson, Owen Herron.
“What time are we leaving tomorrow?” Herron asked.
The 7-year-old didn’t want to miss his opportunity to attend a Memorial Day service.
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“We talked about it a few days before he called, but I honestly thought he probably forgotten about it,” Probst said before the service. “I told him what time we were leaving.”
On Monday, Owen and his grandparents made the trip from Columbus to attend the American Legion Post 89 service at Riverview Cemetery.
A large crowd gathered near Soldiers Row at the cemetery to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving this country.
The event included singing, prayer, a message by Vietnam veteran Gary Dyer, a 21-gun salute and laying of wreaths.
Jackson County has lost at least 130 people from World War I through the Iraq War. Most of those were during World War II when 72 people gave their lives in the name of freedom.
Gary Anderson, post commander, said the American Legion Post 89 has conducted the service for many years. Anderson is an Air Force veteran who served during Vietnam.
The service is a time to recognize those who died serving the United States of America.
“They gave their life for us and we have to remember them,” he said. “We try to pay tribute the best we can.”
One would think that a 7-year-old would have difficulty understanding what Memorial Day is about and why it is important.
Not the studious Herron.
“It’s about remembering the soldiers who were killed in war,” he said, wearing his grandfather’s Marine Corps cap. “It’s important to remember that because they served our country.”
It was a special moment for Francis to see his grandson take interest in the military. He served during Vietnam.
“It’s great because a lot of people forget what it’s all about,” he said. “I think it’s important because I don’t think people put as much priority on it.”
Other people may not, but Herron does.
After learning of his interest in Memorial Day, his grandparents wanted to make sure he understood what a service included. He knew how many shots were fired during the 21-gun salute, the meaning of “Taps” and more about the holiday.
“We spent time showing him videos on YouTube and talking about it,” Karen Probst said.
Dyer spoke about the cost of war, and that cost is something he’s all too familiar with. Dyer’s son, Jeremiah, was seriously injured in Iraq.
While his life was spared, it took five years for him to recover.
But Dyer is familiar with the ultimate cost as he lost a friend during Vietnam.
It was after Dyer had completed his tour in the war when his friend, Gary Lee Clark, was preparing to leave for Vietnam. Clark asked Dyer what he could expect upon landing in the country.
“I told him quite honestly what to expect and didn’t sugarcoat it,” he said following the service. “I told him to expect ambushes, booby traps, snipers and all what was going on. His parents were with him, and I didn’t find out he died until years later.”
Clark died of non-hostile action June 24, 1969, in Kontum Province, according to Tribune records. He was the third person from Jackson County to die during Vietnam.
Dyer was emotional as he spoke about Memorial Day. He said it was overwhelming when he thought about the number of people who have sacrificed their lives for the country.
“I started weeping as I got ready,” he said.
When Dyer got to the cemetery, he wasn’t sure he would be able to speak, but ended up able to do it.
He read the names of each of those who died in Vietnam, each one more difficult to say than the previous.
“It’s the horrors of war,” he said. “Unless you’ve been there, you don’t know.”
As far as the little boy who couldn’t wait to attend his first Memorial Day service?
It made an impression.
“I liked it, and remember the soldiers,” he said before walking away with his grandparents.