It was an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of those who have paid the ultimate price, their lives, at the Memorial Day commemoration held Monday morning at the Perryville courthouse square.
Following a march from the American Legion parking lot by members of the local American Legion, VFW and AmVets chapters, as well as scout members, the event’s master of ceremonies Brian Brickhaus provided a few opening remarks.
Bailey Schnurbusch, Jane Schnurbusch and Bill Fisher sung the national anthem.
State Sen. Holly Rehder provided this year’s keynote address.
“For many Americans, Memorial Day represents a fun day to a three-day weekend,” Rehder said. “It’s an extra day off work to mark the start of summer. Pools are open. Grills are lit and drinks are topped off. That’s all well and good. We should endeavor to enjoy the blessings of liberty and prosperity that has been achieved in this country.
Rehder’s hope was that those in attendance would remember the true message of Memorial Day.
“It’s about remembering and honoring the fallen heroes of this republic who laid down their lives during military service so that this republic of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”
Rehder said it’s odd that the holiday is often recognized with sales and shopping specials.
“By all accounts, Memorial Day should be a somber occasion,” she said. “In fact, if you think about it, Memorial Day is a day we do not want to celebrate. It’s a holiday that we hope upon hope did not exist. We would far rather live in a world where there is not a need to remember the fallen. We would prefer that there are no fallen, that no blood should ever need to be spilled in the defense of liberty, but, as history has shown, liberty, while precious, remains frail, which is why it so often needs defending, often requiring the sacrifice of the lives of our countrymen.
Standing up for freedom is part of what makes Americans proud of their country, Rehder said.
“Even though we hate the need to fight, we’re proud to stand up for this country and the ideas that it represents,” Rehder said. “We are proud that so many from our region are ready to fight for our freedom. We answer the call willingly and with honor, because it’s the right thing to do. The history of the United States, for all of its hope, promise and valor, has been a history often forged in blood. The concept of the American people was ignited in the defense of the colonies during the French and Indian War, a time where Americans did not fight so much for king and country but for farm and family, and each other. That idea of an American people was forged into an American nation in the fires of the revolution when our founders, recognizing the unalienable rights that come from God, fought to make us free, independent from the colonial overlords, to give us a land where we would be masters of our destinies, to give us a future where the people of the United States would govern themselves, according to deeper truths and the understanding about human rights, liberties and dignities.”
That strong commitment to freedom has continued through the decades with other military conflicts.
“Americans still fought, blood and died to secure the longevity of our nation and her people, on the shores of the Barbary coast, during the War of 1812, and in the far flung fronts of the frontier, the people who went and fought did so because their country asked them to do so, and they bravely answered the call.”
The cost of those who perished in the war between the states “shocked our nation to its core,” and soon there were row upon row of white grave markers from newly minted national cemeteries, Rehder said.
Shortly after this, groups of patriots began to place flowers and wreaths on graves, the start of what is now referred to as Memorial Day.
“For decades, the country celebrated Decoration Day,” she said. “The sacrifices of this nation did not end with the Civil War, yet more blood was spilled. It was spilled on the fields of France in World War I, it was spilled on the islands of the Pacific, over the deserts of North Africa, the hills of Italy and again in France during World War II. Again, blood was spilled in the theaters across the globe, in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere, this time to defeat the tide of communism and to defend the freedom of all peoples. Memorial Day expanded beyond remembering the fallen from the Civil War to remembering the fallen from all of our nation’s conflicts. Even now, our nation still mourns the loss of its parents, spouses and children in armed conflicts across the globe, to fight terrorism, wherever it may hide. So many lives have been lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, but it is because of these sacrifices that our country has yet to witness another 9/11. We sleep safe at night from the fear of terror, knowing that there are guardians standing and fighting for our safety and security.”
Rehder said times are much different now than they were more than 50 years ago when the U.S. was involved in the Vietnam War.
“Most of our veterans left home for the Vietnam War as teenagers,” she said. “In the COVID closures last year, I saw a sign that said something to the nature of ‘Our high school graduates aren’t getting to have their graduation ceremonies, and that it’s disappointing but think about 50-odd years ago that our graduates were getting on a bus to go to war. I think that speaks volumes to the difference in our times and the things that truly matter.”
Prior to Rehder’s speech several leaders or representatives of veterans and other community organizations provided Memorial Day comments.
“As Americans, we all enjoy the enormous benefits of freedom,” said Perryville Mayor Ken Baer. “Remembering those who died to preserve that freedom is an obligation we all share. Thank you for being here. Thank you for remembering. Thank you for sharing.”
“Today, we remember our men and women who wore the uniform who gave their lives for our freedom we enjoy today,” Jerry Hotop of AmVets Post 94. “Remember, freedom is not free.”
“I am deeply honored to stand with you commemorating the sacrifice of those military men and women who have laid down their lives in service to this nation,” said Tim Boettcher, VFW Post 4282 commander. “I would ask as you leave here and go about the rest of your day to keep the fallen in your mind and keep their families and friends in your hearts...their collective sacrifice has helped keep our country safe and free.”
“We gather today to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” said Paul Kohm commander of American Legion Post 133. “Through the good and the bad there has always been one constant, your military, always ready when called to toe the line with the enemies, knowing they may not make it home. They were Americans willing to give their lives to make yours better and free. In some way today, honor those who have fallen, give them the respect they are due. This Memorial Day, please remember the fallen brothers and sisters and show them we stand one nation, under God.”
Bill Jones of the Sons of the American Legion, post 133, reflected on how Memorial Day originated in the years after the U.S. Civil War, first as Decorations Day, then quoted a song by country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
“All gave some, some gave all, some stood through for the red, white and blue and some had to fall,” Jones said. “If you ever think of me, think of all your liberties and recall...some gave all....On this day, those are the ones that we remember and honor, those that gave all. Our thoughts must also turn to those who have served and continue to serve in the armed forces to protect our liberty and freedom, and we must keep them in our prayers, asking God to protect them and keep them safe.”
Carol Taylor, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, spoke of the importance of Memorial Day: “To remember our fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy all the freedoms this country has to offer.”
The Rev. Frank Lucas of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Altenburg, gave both an opening and closing prayer at Monday’s commemoration.
“Those who served their country are your instruments, and greater love has none than this that a man lay down his life for another,” Lucas said. “Bless us as we memorialize those who have died in service to their country this day, in your holy name we pray.”
Lucas concluded the speaking portion of the program with a final prayer, commemorating those who lost lives and are remembered as well as asking people to serve each other humbly now and in the future.
“Continue to raise up people who are willing to do the same, that those whose lives have already been lost have not been lost in vain,” Lucas said. “As we return to our daily lives, can we ever forget the service members who did not do the same? Such is the cost to keep tyranny and evil at bay. We are free and we our blessed and we humbly ask that you would preserve our nation and country as you have done through those we memorialize today.”
Lauren Moore, Perryville High School class of 2021 graduate played “Taps” prior to the retiring of the colors. After the playing of “Taps,” Brickhaus offered a few closing remarks and the colors were retired. Several with the American Legion, VFW and AmVets made visits to nearby cemeteries for the placing of flags and playing of “Taps.”