Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2005

Memorial Day service calls again

June 2, 2005

There are so many truly fine events in the Baldwin City area to take part in, but there's nothing quite like the Memorial Day services every year at Oakwood Cemetery.

Baldwin is blessed to have a strong and active American Legion Post. Every year on Memorial Day, Post members put on a ceremony to honor those that have died serving their country. For those that attend the service, it's a feel-good experience filled with patriotic pride, but there are always some tears shed, too.

This year's version was especially good. It was Post Commander Lisa Robertson's swan song and she came up with a Memorial Day program that won't be forgotten. There were the usual standard fare items, but there were some new twists that the crowd enjoyed.

It started with a brass ensemble from the Baldwin Community Band. Led by Will Cooper, the five-member ensemble played several songs before the ceremony and also after it was over. It made for a good backdrop all the way around, especially the conversation among the many attendees afterward.

Also new to the lineup was a Navy bell, which was rang in remembrance of those who had fallen in battle. Attendees could name their veteran family member and a member of the Shawnee Heights Junior ROTC Cadet group ran the bell. The ROTC group also provided the honor guard duties and added a good touch to the morning.

This year's version also had standouts in two familiar roles. The Rev. Ira DeSpain, Baker University minister, opened the ceremony with a prayer. Prior to bowing heads, DeSpain made special mention of the 20 people from Kansas who have lost their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq. That hits especially close to home to DeSpain, whose son, Dan, is serving his second stint in Iraq.

The Memorial Day speech was delivered by Col. Mark Marks of Lawrence. It was especially touching to many, including Col. Marks, as he described what he'd witnessed in Iraq. He couldn't keep his own tears away and many in the crowd joined with him.

While all of the different parts of the program were good, the gathering is always as much about the people who attend as anything. It's a wide array of Baldwin community members, mostly older, but not completely.

I've been attending the services for about seven years now and I always like to see the familiar faces, as well as some new ones. The Legion Post is always well represented with hats on and easily spotted.

Lawn chairs are optional, but are a good idea. This year, 95-year-old Katharine Kelley took that a step further, driving her car up to the ceremony. I have to admit I had a hand in it. I was at my car on Third Street when she came driving up. The "good" parking spots were taken and she was looking. I knew no matter what she found, it would be a long walk for her. So, I waved her into the road leading to the ceremony. She didn't hesitate. I thought it was only right that she should do that and no one seemed to disagree.

It all made for a Memorial Day service to remember. It happens every year, but this one was just better. Maybe the ongoing conflict in Iraq has kept the military's service more visible in recent years. Maybe the losses of soldiers from as close as Wellsville and Ottawa in the past year bring it even closer to home.

Or maybe the horror that we see played out every night on the evening news makes more of us agree with what the Rev. DeSpain does most concerning Iraq.

"That's deep and fervent prayer for peace," he said.

Amen to that.

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