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Veterans stand at attention as Ohio County Veteran’s Service Officer Bill Parks presents his Memorial Day speech at the riverfront ceremony Monday, May 25. Submitted photo

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Legionnaire Barb Anderson, front left, holds the American flag. Submitted photo

Memorial Day different, but war heroes honored with same pride and dignity

Most years, Memorial Day in Rising Sun is marked by an elaborate parade featuring floats, fire trucks, and a patriotic theme. However, traditional parades seem to break the social distancing guidelines currently in place, so a smaller intimate gathering was decided upon. 

On Monday, May 25, members of the American Legion Post 59 invited the community to their riverfront Veteran’s Memorial where they provided a ceremony to honor those who died during their military service. Sons, auxiliary, and legionnaire members suited up and stood at attention  embracing flags and rifles as they lined the walkways near the clock tower. 

After bells rang, Veterans Service Officer Bill Parks initially welcomed the crowd. He spoke of how Memorial Day originally emerged in 1868 and was then referred to as Decoration Day. It was reserved as a day to honor the deceased by decorating their graves with flowers. Parks also acknowledged that this year’s celebration was different in that there was no parade and no individual crosses were put up at the courthouse due to the nationwide pandemic. After expressing gratitude for the ability to still come together as a community and celebrate, a somber song was played on the bagpipes. This was followed by a prayer compliments of  the Post 59 Chaplain KC Snyder. 

Amy Hochstrasser, Ohio County Auditor and a 1988 graduate of Rising Sun High School, then sang that National Anthem as Old Glory whipped in the wind high above her. After thanking her, Parks led the crowd, who had placed their hands over their hearts, in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

He then continued with a speech that honored those that have lost their lives in the military and remembered the healthcare professionals on the front lines battling the Coronavirus. He referred to them as heroes and compared them to those we originally honor each Memorial Day as they each have sacrificed their own lives so that others may live. He explained this as being the ultimate definition of selfless. “As we celebrate the selfless and untiring performances of the healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic it brings to mind the military medics, doctors, and nurses who sacrificed their lives while treating others on the battlefield,” Parks said.

He spoke of the military heroes in every occupational field and how their job requires great risk and noted that nearly one million men and women in the military have lost their lives in defense of our nation. They not only died from battle wounds, but disease and accidents sometimes outnumbered these casualties. Parks encouraged everyone to remember all lives lost and asked for God to bless them. 

He then instructed Post Commander Casey Brett to add a wreath to the cross of the unknown soldier. Brett then read the names of last year’s deceased veterans which included: James F. Conner, Robert L. Horton, Hilbert W. Keith, Harry S. Walker, Larry Combs, Joseph H. Evans, and John E. Wolfe. Three volleys were fired from five rifles before Tapps was played. It was a very somber moment as the mighty Ohio flowed peacefully in the background and tears were shed. 

Snyder ended the ceremony with a prayer and Parks asked that his fallen comrades be remembered. He then thanked the crowd and invited them back to the Post for further activities and a meal. 

Not only was the holiday celebrated publicly, there were also others putting in work behind the scenes to make the day special. If you were to drive by or through the Rising Sun, Union, or Cedar Hedge cemeteries, you would have seen the beauty created by the work of several volunteers. Each year,  the Rising Sun Cemetery board members have always remembered and honored each veteran buried there by placing an American flag on their graves. It is an honor for them to give our veterans the recognition they deserve each Memorial Day. The board thanked the following folks for their help: Maddy Bovard, Josie Bell, board member Ron Spurlock, County Council President Tammy Elbright, board member Lloyd Pavy, Jill Elliott and her granddaughter Avery, Legionnaire Ben Gulley, Brenda O’Neal, board member and Treasurer Mike O’Neal, Legionnaire Steve Rader, Legionnaire Rocky Smith, Veterans Service Officer Bill Parks, board member Gene Elliott, Legionnaire KC Snyder, board member Eldon Fancher, Legionnaire Roger Jones, Barry Collins, Auxiliary Member Nancy Scott, Legionnaire Rick Scott, board member and President Russ Robinson, Auxiliary Member Cheri Collins, Sons Member Doug Parks, city employee and board member Paul Bovard, and City Project Manager Mike Northcutt.