Even at age 15, Owen Chandler knows what is truly important on Memorial Day.

He could have slept in, watched television or played video games Monday morning, but instead he was right where he wanted to be.

Dressed in his Boy Scout uniform, he stood in between the rows of headstones at Riverview Cemetery in Seymour, lifted his trumpet to his lips and played the solemn notes of taps.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

“It makes me feel really proud,” he said of playing the emotional melody that traditionally signifies lights out at the end of the day for soldiers. This was his fourth year to participate in American Legion Post 89’s annual Memorial Day service.

The pride Chandler has is not for himself, but for his grandfather, Rick Roberts, a U.S. veteran of the Vietnam War.

“I do it for him,” Chandler said.

Roberts is a member of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in Seymour and participates in the honor guard.

During Monday’s ceremony along Soldier’s Row, Roberts stood along with other veterans, lifted his rifle and fired three times to honor all those men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Although there was a crowd of people gathered for the service, Roberts said there should be more.

“The whole cemetery should be full,” he said.

Matt Chandler, Owen’s father, said all three of his sons, Owen, Sammy, 12, and Liam, 10, attended the Memorial Day ceremony.

“It helps us acknowledge and pay respect to all those who fought for our freedom in the past,” Matt Chandler said. “There have been so many who have sacrificed their lives for our country, and there families have made sacrifices too.

“Being here makes people realize that freedom comes at a cost,” he added. “It’s also neat for the boys to see their grandpa in the honor guard.”

During the service, three wreaths were laid at the veterans memorial gravestone. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Buddy Poppy wreath was placed by Barb Barger.

Another wreath was the Gold Star Mothers’ wreath, which is in honor of mothers whose children died while serving the country in the military. It was carried by Mary Ann Back.

A third wreath represents the American Legion Auxiliary and it was placed by Rita Lowe.

Legion Chaplain Gary Dyer opened the ceremony with prayer.

“Our Lord Jesus said in the Holy Book that he came to heal the brokenhearted, and so may it be in this service today that our hearts our healed from the loss of a loved one,” Dyer said.

American Legion Commander Odas Higginbotham spoke about the importance of remembering those who sacrificed their lives for their country.

“It is for these heroes that we gather here today,” he said. “Fortunately, we have the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard doing all that they can to protect us. But it is up to us to remember their sacrifice.”

That sacrifice is also made by their families and loved ones.

“Long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stop exploding, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent,” Higginbotham said. “Spouses will be without their life partners. Parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early.”

It’s up to not only the American Legion but all American citizens to help support those who are left behind, he added.

“We need to be there for them,” Higginbotham said. “Nobody can replace these fallen heroes — especially in the eyes of their families — but we can offer shoulders to cry on, assistance with educational expenses and assurance that their loved one’s sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.