Monday, May 25, 2009

Small Town Memorial Day Celebration

For a celebration originally called Decoration Day, the tradition of decorating the graves of departed loved ones is especially appropriate.

The Sunday before Memorial Day was a beautiful one in west-central Nebraska, with puffy white clouds filling the sky, and just a little too much of a breeze.  Family and friends spend the afternoon pulling weeds, cleaning stones and placing flowers and other mementos.

Previously the local American Legion Post had placed American flags at all service members' graves.
Despite the forecast for scattered showers, and thunderstorms this afternoon, Memorial Day was just about as perfect as it could get for the remembrance ceremony.  Early birds are starting to arrive, and the Sutherland High School band is warming up for their performance.

We were fortunate to be on the route for the Nebraska Air National Guard 155th Refueling Wing flyover.  Seeing this massive airplane at such a low altitude was an awesome sight.
The local Boy Scouts and their scoutmaster joined the American Legion in posting the colors.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Seth Omer, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and currently stationed in North Platte as a recruiter.  He joined the service seven years ago today.
The Memorial Day ceremony at Sutherland is marked by the Honor Roll Call, in which each name of every deceased service person who called this area home is read.  From the Civil War through Vietnam, common local names abound on the roll call list - Coker, Applegate, Eckhoff, Beveridge, Arensdorf, Danielson.  As each name is read, pictures form in our memories, whether of a loved one, a community leader or a notable local character.  My own relatives on the list include my father Paul Seifer, uncle Gordon Gamble Sr., cousin Gordon "Butch" Gamble Jr., and father-in-law Marvin Clark.
The ceremony is completed with the Salute to the Dead by the American Legion Firing Squad and the plaintiff notes of "Taps" by local buglers Anthony and Tim Pfeiff.
Following the ceremony, friends and neighbors take advantage of the gathering and the beautiful day to catch up on the news from old friends.
It's a day when visits to the gravesites are an occasion for acquainting the children with stories of their ancestors whom they will only know by what we tell them.
Sutherland is a very fortunate community in that our Youth Program offers a subscription for flag placement.  Just pay the annual fee and volunteers will place a flag on your lawn or house on specified flag display days throughout the year.  It's a great fundraiser for the program and the town looks festive and patriotic on the holidays.
Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.  Enjoy your Memorial Day with your friends and loved ones.

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