By Dennis Morgan
On a sun-splashed prairie where sacred soil is the final resting place for heroes and family, Elgin area residents observed Memorial Day.
Services at Park Cemetery and West Cedar Valley/St. Boniface Cemetery (WCV/SB) honored the men and women who served during times of war and peace, some who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
At WCV/SB, Father Kevin Vogel of St. Boniface Catholic Church, spoke of families coming to cemeteries to leave flowers, clean stones, pray over deceased loved ones of groups coming to place the American flag near the head stones of men and women who served, both in times of war and peace.
“Even though Memorial Day is a holiday specifically to recall those who have died while serving in the armed forces, many people use it as a day to remember all those that have died,” he said. “So many of the stones are decorated, not just those that were in the military.”
He said he often goes to cemeteries to pray for those buried there. Often, he said, he’s asked to help find the grave of a loved one, or they may tell him stories of a loved one.
“They will ask if I, too, have come to talk to someone that is close to me who has passed away. It all happens even though I don’t always come dressed as a priest, but it seems to many that a cemetery is a place of solemn silence
All of us who visit here have been wounded by separation of at least one person whom we love. All here, carry within the tinge of sorrow of that loss.
A time when traditions are often put aside, we should never lose this tradition of Memorial Day. It’s moving to see parents and grandparents bring their children and grandchildren, to help place and flowers and teaching them to remember those who came before us.” Father Vogel closed by saying, “We never want to forget those who are never forgotten by our Heavenly Father.”
Earlier in the day, EHS senior-to-be Hunter Reestman spoke to those gathered at Park Cemetery. Reestman gained national recognition for winning an Americanism essay contest sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. He won the local, state and Northwest competitions, to be one of just five students across the country to earn top honors.
Sharing excerpts from his essay and focusing parts on Memorial Day, Reestman advocated doing more for the nation’s veterans.
“Memorial Day is a day to remember fallen heroes of our country,” Reestman said. “There is a quote by a Korean War veteran, Howard William Osterkamp, that says “All gave some, some gave all.” He is saying that all people willing to serve our country are heroes … All gave some … He’s also saying we need to honor those who took the ultimate sacrifice … Some gave all …
“In my opinion, we should do more than set aside certain days to honor current service members, ex-veterans and the fallen. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, veterans make up between one-fourth and one-fifth of the homeless population: roughly between 130,000 and 200,000. Currently VA programs have around 600 agencies who house 14,5000 homeless veterans, but what about the rest? More VA programs can be created in order to help our heroes as they helped us.
“A number of people in America do not promote Americanism, but as a young adult in a small town, it is my job to do so. In our community, I am only a small voice. However, if we come together to support our veterans, a difference can be made.”
After the programs, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 229 and VFW Auxiliary Unit 5816 hosted a lunch at the KC Hall.
By Dennis Morgan