‘May we never forget’ | Monroe County observes Memorial Day

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Roger Cortner and his granddaughters release a group of doves during the Memorial Day service in Hecker.

Hundreds of citizens across Monroe County gathered at four different services Monday to honor those who died while serving in America’s military. 

Waterloo

In Waterloo, it was the American Legion Post 747’s turn to lead the ceremony, which was fitting given that this is the Legion’s 100th anniversary nationwide. 

At the ceremony on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn, Waterloo Mayor and American Legion member Tom Smith implemented a special color guard made up of members of several branches of the armed forces and re-enactors dressed as veterans of both World Wars.

Smith also added seven prisoner of war flags to the American flags in the field of crosses representing citizens who died in the military. Waterloo was recently named a POW/MIA City.

The Waterloo Municipal Band, Kaskaskia Trail Chorus and Brenda Johnson provided patriotic music. 

Featured speaker Kristen Jordan, a tactical sergeant in the Air Force who has been deployed to Afghanistan, told the crowd what the holiday is all about. 

“On Memorial Day, we remember,” she said. “We know that words cannot repay the debt that we owe. May we never forget.” 

Columbia

The Columbia service featured state Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo), a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, as speaker at the Columbia American Legion Post 581. 

Schimpf spoke about meeting the families of three fallen soldiers over the years, noting he could do nothing to ease their grief but was inspired by their “quiet strength.” 

“We must understand the reason for that sacrifice,” he said. “They believed their family, friends, community and country were worth fighting and dying for.”

The service also included remarks by Post 581 Auxiliary President Janet Janson recognizing the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 and Post 581 Commander Greg Smith focusing on Brent Taylor, a major in the Utah National Guard and father of seven who recently died in Afghanistan. 

Taylor, the father of seven, had called on the nation to put aside partisan politics and come together.

“United we stand. Divided we fall,” Smith said. “Politics are irrelevant to a family that has to hear the words ‘We regret to inform you…’ Major Taylor called on us to be unified. It is the least we can do.”

Valmeyer

American Legion Post 901 hosted its annual service in Valmeyer, which included a tribute to dead Valmeyer veterans, music from Terrie Thies and the placing of the Wreath for Gold Star Mothers. 

The speaker was Legion Post 901 member and former Air Force pilot Ed VanZandt. 

He focused on the meaning of the American way of life, noting that Memorial Day is to embrace the love of those who died defending that way of life. 

“We choose to honor them by living the American dream to the fullest, accepting the challenges embedded into those freedoms they have preserved for us,” VanZandt said. “We reserve those values for generations to come that they may have the opportunity to live the American way of life as we have and to understand the significance of that term as we do.”

Hecker

About 50 people congregated at St. Augustine Cemetery in Hecker for that village’s 19th annual ceremony. 

The proceedings included flyovers from nine aircraft, playing of patriotic music, a performance from the Parks Guard Rifle Drill Team and a reading of the names of over 70 veterans who are still alive and more than 130 who have died.

Retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Brent Piel of Red Bud delivered the main speech. He talked about three men who were with him in a picture when he was a young Marine. 

All three other men have died, one in a terrorist attack while serving in El Salvador, one while serving in Afghanistan and one by suicide after his service. 

“I’m the only one left in that picture,” Piel said. “That’s why Memorial Day is important to me. It’s not about the barbecue and the speeches. It’s about remembering people like Luke, Greg and Steve and the things that they accomplished and (remembering) the people who are out here in this cemetery who are no longer able to tell their story of what they did and who they were.” 

(Alan Dooley, Corey Saathoff and Kermit Constantine contributed to this story)

Waterloo

In Waterloo, it was the American Legion Post 747’s turn to lead the ceremony, which was fitting given that this is the Legion’s 100th anniversary nationwide. 

At the ceremony on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn, Waterloo Mayor and American Legion member Tom Smith implemented a special color guard made up of members of several branches of the armed forces and re-enactors dressed as veterans of both World Wars.

Smith also added seven prisoner of war flags to the American flags in the field of crosses representing citizens who died in the military. Waterloo was recently named a POW/MIA City.

The Waterloo Municipal Band, Kaskaskia Trail Chorus and Brenda Johnson provided patriotic music. 

Featured speaker Kristen Jordan, a tactical sergeant in the Air Force who has been deployed to Afghanistan, told the crowd what the holiday is all about. 

“On Memorial Day, we remember,” she said. “We know that words cannot repay the debt that we owe. May we never forget.”

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