Newly elected VFW Commander John Paul Sullivan led the largest Memorial Day event the post has seen in years, with well over 100 veterans and their families along with members of the community seated outside for a short ceremony followed by refreshments on the large patio.
After citing statistics of loss from World War I through the Iraq war, Sullivan said nearly 30 veterans take their lives on a daily basis, the primary reason why events like the one on Monday are important.
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was officially established in 1966 but has its origins in several small towns where, reportedly, widows decided to decorate the graves of fallen enemy soldiers in the years after the Civil War. It is a day of paying respect to all who have fallen in combat, of acknowledging their family’s grief.
Sullivan, paying homage to how the holiday was created, said the day was one to commemorate those who lost their lives in ser vice.
“America without soldiers is like God without angels,” Sullivan said, citing a Claudia Pemberton quote.
After reciting the poem associated with Memorial Day, In Flanders Fields, Sullivan said it is important to regularly remember those who have passed rather than waiting for an official holiday to do so.
“Ceremonies are important but our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies,” Sullivan said, repeating a comment originally made by Jennifer Granholm.
“We honor the dead best by treating the living well,” Sullivan said.
Alpine VFW Quartermaster Carl Silva announced he was adding a name to their Memorial wall, although he was not a member at the time of his passing: Sgt. Joseph Perry, a local Alpine soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2006.
Silva read the names of each veteran’s plaque on the wall. The event was silent except for the tolling of the bell after each name. Incoming Auxiliary president Michael Buxton similarly read the names of each auxiliary member’s name, also punctuated by the bell that rang out after each person was announced.
The crowd was silent, save a few murmurs of recognition.
Auxiliary Chaplain Jan Morse Bazdorf asked in her closing prayer for the boldness to seek peace and justice in a world that is currently fraught with tension.
“We ask that you guide us… let us go in peace,” Bazdorf said.
After the event, Sullivan said he was glad to hear that Silva had invited everyone in the community, whether or not they are members of the VFW to attend the Memorial Day event during last week’s Wall of Honor event organized by Dan Foster.
“I thought it was amazing that he let people in the community know about our event today because things like this keep the community aware we’re here, celebrating and supporting veterans,” Sullivan said.
The Memorial day event was, he said, their “coming out ceremony” after many months of restrictions and “means a lot to the families”.