Alpena, MI --
ALPENA –People of all ages answered the Memorial Day call Monday as a large crowd not only lined Washington Avenue in Alpena for the annual parade of tribute, but also attended the annual ceremony at Little Flanders Field to salute our nation’s heroes who died during combat.
For the past several years, crowds have been sparse, but Monday was a different story as hundreds came out to remember those who sacrificed everything to preserve the freedom and rights of citizens of the U.S.
The day began with a brief ceremony in the yard of the Alpena County Courthouse. Then a parade moved to the Thunder Bay River on Old Washington Avenue, where a wreath was thrown into the water to honor the men and women who were lost at sea. From there, many walked to Little Flanders Field via the Avenue of Flags set up by the Alpena Kiwanis Club and Alpena Sports Boosters Club. At Little Flanders Field, 162 flags were placed at the foot of white crosses for local fighters who died in all of our nation’s wars.
The guest speaker for the event was Col. John Minor, commander at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. He talked about how the Memorial Day holiday is much more sentimental to many people than it is to others.
“For many of us, Memorial Day has a very personal or individual meaning,” he said. “And, to those who lost loved ones, I offer my profound gratitude, because, for these families, every day is Memorial Day. They are our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. They come from all walks of life, races, and backgrounds, but they all share the same connection: the choice to stand up against tyranny and evil in the world.”
Minor said he has memories of people to whom he was close who lost their lives in the military. He said he suspects they wouldn’t want their deaths mourned, but used as motivation.
“To me, the message they leave is a simple one,” he said. “‘Don’t mourn my loss, celebrate it. Allow my sacrifice to mean something. Above all else, treasure the gift of life and the opportunity to live in a free country and preserve it and protect it.’ Be a person deserving of their sacrifice and be a better human being.”
After Minor’s speech, wreaths were placed in front of the rows of crosses that represent soldiers who died fighting from the Civil War to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wreaths of tribute were also placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and for the those missing in action or who were prisoners of war. One was also dedicated to those who were impacted by Agent Orange while at war.
Alpena’s Paul Nolan sang “The Star Spangled Banner” during the event. Chaplain Bill Romstadt did the opening and closing prayer. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2496 Honor Guard did the customary rifle salute. Matt Fisher played taps to close the event.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.