As six members of the Mello-Tones men’s chorus sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” many of the more than 200 people attending Monday’s Memorial Day service at the American Legion Post 89 annex in Seymour sang along.
Those patriotic songs evoke a variety of emotions, especially for veterans.
“I think not only the representation of the music, knowing the mix of older, middle-aged and young men that presented it, it speaks volumes of the dedication of people to remember the people that have fallen before us,” said Chuck Thomes of Seymour, who retired after 21 years in the Navy serving as an aviation ordnance technician. “That in itself keeps the memory and the sacrifice alive.”
The program concluded with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 Honor Guard firing three volleys outside the annex as a way to remember those who lost their lives serving the country.
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“The crack of an M1 Garand can wake up a lot of things for a lot of people — some of it good, some of it not so good. But it does evoke certain feelings for different people,” Thomes said.
“For those that are here, it provides recognition, it provides comfort and also can show the community … that there are things to be honored and cherished, and there’s a time and place for it,” he said. “You can’t grieve 24/7, but you can keep them in your thoughts.”
The Rev. Gary Dyer, Post 89 chaplain and a Vietnam War veteran, was the featured speaker at Monday’s service. He said he is proud to have served the country and is glad people are still willing to do so.
“Everywhere you look, on the TV and on the radio, all you hear is bad news, and it looks like evil is present everywhere,” Dyer said. “But I’ll tell you, there are still men and women out there that are willing to fight for this country.”
Just like those who served before them, those men and women come from all walks of life and possess courage, determination, pride and dedication and integrity to their duty, Dyer said.
“Since the Revolutionary War began, American men and women have been answering the nation’s call to fight for freedom,” he said. “Millions of Americans have fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend our way of life. Even today, our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifice. Still, more Americans are standing up and saying, ‘I’m ready to serve.’”
Because of those brave, selfless actions, missions are completed, battles are won and lives are spared, Dyer said.
Memorial Day is the time to recognize and honor that, he added.
“People who let Memorial Day pass by without a second thought may very well owe their existence to the courageous sacrifices of a sailor, a solider, an airman or a Marine on some foreign soil in some war of the past,” Dyer said.
“My hope for this Memorial Day is that American people will direct their attention to remember the nation’s heroes whose lives were tragically cut short,” he said. “May their memory be cherished and their sacrifices be noted and appreciated by the country that they protected.”
Post 89 commander Larry Shelly said it’s also a day to keep the veterans’ families in mind.
“We need to be there for them, not because we can replace their loss; no one can. But we can offer assistance and assurance that their loved one’s sacrifice was not in vain and will never be forgotten,” Shelly said.
“Americans must remember that freedom is not free,” he said. “In fact, our freedom is only possible because of our fallen heroes that paid the high price.”
Mark Stockhover of Seymour was among those with the VFW Honor Guard that offered the rifle salute. He said most of the Honor Guard members also participate in military funerals and belong to the VFW and American Legion.
“I just enjoy doing it, and I do it because I might want them to do it for me someday,” the Vietnam veteran said.
Stockhover said he has participated in the Memorial Day program for several years, and it always takes him back to his four years of serving in the Air Force.
“It’s just something that needed to be done, and my father was in World War II in Europe,” he said. “It’s just something you did.”
Also in attendance at the program were members of Boy Scout troops 528 and 529 and local Cub Scouts.
Skylar Shubert, 13, said their troop leaders encouraged them to attend, and they were glad to do so.
Cameron Kincer, 13, said it was nice to see a lot of veterans at the program.
Attending the program meant a lot to Scout Braedon Reynolds, 13, since he has veterans in his family.
“I know my grandpa fought, and my family has had people fight in Vietnam and World War II,” Braedon said. “It’s cool that people still honor that.”