Legion holds Memorial Day services in Oak Ridge

Memorial Day serves as a poignant reminder that all Americans must take time to honor the memory and sacrifices of those heroes


Monday, May 27, marked Memorial Day, a day to remember those we have lost in West Liberty, and across the United States.

Oak Ridge Cemetery was the site of a ceremony in the community featuring the local American Legion and Sons of the American Legion.

The weather was breezy, but the sky was blue, and the temperature was comfortable. It was a great day to visit the cemetery and remember lost loved ones.

Deb Devore and Holly Mathias from the American Legion Auxiliary were offering poppies to guests at the cemetery entrance, and it was hard not to immediately notice the absence of the flags.

“They couldn’t do the flags this year because of the bad weather,” Mathias said. “The flags are not nylon, so it takes a while for them to dry out. Friday, all the bad weather came through, and that’s when they were supposed to put them up.”

Between the wind and the rain, it simply wasn’t safe to put up all the flags as usual.

The absence of the flags didn’t dampen spirits. The townsfolk gathered in their folding chairs to enjoy small talk and sunny skies. Old and young alike sat beside one another to remember the fallen.

The ceremony began with Legion Commander Kevin Minor welcoming everyone.

He then introduced Deb Devore, who led a prayer. As is tradition, Jeff Owen followed the prayer by reading the names of the local men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The list seems to grow longer every year.

The West Liberty High School musicians played several patriotic songs, including "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The live music provided a pleasant soundscape to accompany the entrance of the flags, carried in by the local American Legion. After the musical interlude, the wreaths were presented by Gwen Kessler and Nancy Riley.

The Legion invited guest speaker Colonel Joe Parker. He is currently stationed at the Rock Island Arsenal.

“At the Arsenal, we provide guest speakers for events like these, usually Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and other events,” Colonel Parker explained to the Index. “It’s a kind of community outreach, giving back to the community.”

He began his speech with gratitude.

“It is with deep gratitude and humility that I stand before you today representing the Army, the Army Sustainment Command, and the Rock Island Arsenal,” Colonel Parker said. 

“Today we remember and honor the brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our great nation. On this Memorial Day, we gather to pay tribute and memorialize the veterans who gave their lives in service to our country. As Legionnaires, you constantly remind our communities that freedom and prosperity come at a price, a price often paid in blood.”

“Our nation will forever be indebted to the brave men and women who have fallen in the service to our nation. Memorial Day serves as a poignant reminder that all Americans must take time to honor the memory and sacrifices of those heroes. They embody the true essence of sacrifice, valor, and patriotism,” the Colonel said.

He also offered a brief history of the Rock Island Arsenal, which was established in 1862 and is the only full-service Army installation in the Illinois and Iowa area.

Some of the nation’s most decorated heroes are found there, past and present. Everyone is invited to visit the historic Arsenal and attend their events or visit the National Cemetery.

“As we gather here today, we honor the memory of those courageous individuals who have given their lives in defense of our freedom, paying tribute to their unwavering dedication, their valor, and their commitment to defending the values that define us as a nation. Today, as we stand united, let us commemorate the lives, the courage, the legacy, and the service of our fallen comrades,” Colonel Parker finished.

The ceremony ended as usual, with a bang. Actually, it was three loud bangs from the guns of the legionnaires as part of the 21-gun salute.

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those we have lost, and no one does it with more poise and care than our local American Legion.