Memorial Day was memorable
By all accounts, Monday's annual Memorial Day ceremony at Oakwood Cemetery was one of the best ever.
A crowd of about 50 people, many of them decorated veterans, took part in the ceremony conducted by the Lloyd Beaton American Legion Post. The ceremony included two new twists -- a brass ensemble and a Navy bell ceremony -- that added to the event.
There was also a Junior Cadet ROTC group that provided the color guard. U.S. Army Col. Mark Marks of Lawrence delivered the address and touched a lot of hearts.
"I think to me, he personalized it with his time in Iraq and witnessing a soldier's death," said Lisa Robertson, Legion Post commander, whose son, Jared, returned earlier this year from serving in Iraq.
"It was very poignant," said Robertson. "A lot of people were touched by it."
People were touched in different ways at the ceremony. The Rev. Ira DeSpain, Baker University minister who opened the event with a prayer, agreed that this year's ceremony was special.
"It was a real meaningful day," said DeSpain. "It was great to be there. It was great to be a part of it. I was especially aware of the 20 men and women from Kansas that have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially Jake Butler from Wellsville and Scott Wasser from Ottawa."
But, DeSpain also admitted there was someone else weighing heavily on his mind Monday, too -- his son, Dan, who is currently serving his second stint in Iraq.
"Yes, I sure was thinking of him," said DeSpain. "I write him everyday in a journal and send it to him once a week. I was writing to him and thinking about the people who have died over there in his battalion. There have been 12 or 15. And of course, heavy on my mind was his continued involvement over there."
DeSpain said that currently his son is scheduled to return the last week of July. He knows that is part of the reason he's given the prayer the last few years.
"I've gone on many occasions," he said of the Baldwin ceremony. "I think with a son in the military is why they ask me. It's always a meaningful time and a meaningful experience for those that are there."
Robertson thinks the band and the bell ceremony made a difference. The ceremony's details were her final project as Legion commander. John Hey takes over as commander in June.
The band was a brass ensemble from the Baldwin Community Band and was led by Will Cooper. The ensemble played several songs prior to the ceremony's start. The Navy bell ceremony allowed those in the audience to mention a loved one's service and the bell was rung twice.
"I think part of it was we had two different things this year," Robertson said of why people liked Monday's program so well. "Everybody really liked the brass ensemble and the bells."
Archer Carlson, a long-time member of the Post who has been attending the ceremonies for at least 60 years, was pleased with everything about the ceremony.
"I was very well impressed with it," said Carlson. "I was especially pleased with the bell ceremony and the brass band. I thought those were good additions.
"We had good attendance. We had 60," he said. "We also had 15 Legionnaires, which is over 10 percent of our membership. I thought Lisa did a good job with it. I thought Col. Marks gave a good speech. I thought it was very well received and I've had a lot of people comment to me about it."