Mayor, Colonel Lucas, Captain Manes, fellow veterans and Hilltoppers, family, and friends – thank you.  I am deeply humbled and honored to return to my hometown and provide a few words on one of America ’s most hallowed of days.

Honoring Mt. Pulaski ’s Fallen Heroes

     Memorial Day is the time Americans honor those veterans who have given their lives fighting for our country. On this sacred day, we stop and remember the enormous sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made, and are still making, to preserve our liberty, and also of the responsibility we bear to transmit liberty to future generations.


     More than 48 million men and women have fought to preserve America ’s freedom – and more than a million Americans have died so you and I can stand here today, and enjoy that freedom.  Of those million plus people who gave their lives, this community has at least 16 heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  Remember with me the names of these veterans.  Pass on their stories.  They once walked in our midst.  And today, they have gathered here with us.  You can hear them in the cracking of the Stars and Stripes in the wind.  You can see them in the faces of their family and friends, and in the eyes of those of us who came home.  You can feel them in your hearts as you listen to their names, and remember

     Our fallen heroes from World War I – Herbert Ryman and Zachary Taylor Fuiten; from World War II – Roscoe Allen, Louis “Cotton” Bender, Lewis Dean Berry, Tommy Deibert, Frederick Durcholz, Chester Goodman, Wilbur Mann, Orville Munyon, Donald Landis, Joe Houchin, and Marvin McVicker; from the Korean War – Williard “Spud” Payne; and from the Vietnam War – Michael Scroggin and Raymond Gee, Jr.

     Let us also remember the more than 140,000 who were taken prisoner-of-war and the many others who were never accounted for.  Some of the prisoners-of-war from our community are Harold “Butch” Haynes, Mike Koehler, Robert Horn, Stu Milligan, Robert Schahl.  The fallen are in our midst today, to remind us that the cost of war and the price of peace are great.

The “Memorial” in Memorial Day

     For decades, stores closed and communities gathered on Memorial Day for a day of parades and other celebrations with a patriotic theme.  Memorial Day meant ceremonies at cemeteries around the country, speeches honoring those who gave their lives, the laying of wreaths and flowers, and the playing of Taps.  In some places, these ceremonies continue, as we see here today in Mt. Pulaski.  Those of you present at this ceremony remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. 

     However, too many Americans, who are the beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, pay little or no attention to the “Memorial” in Memorial Day.  For a growing percentage of Americans, Memorial Day has come to mean a three-day weekend, the opening weekend of summer, barbecues, picnics, and Memorial Day sales.

A Call to Action

     What can we, as individuals do, and what can this community do to keep the meaning of “Memorial” in Memorial Day?  First, by being here today, you are doing something important.  You are not forgetting the sacrifices of our fallen veterans.  What else can you do?  You can – 

  • Place flags and flowers at the graves of our fallen heroes.

  • Fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.  Fly the “POW/MIA Flag” as well.

  • Participate in a “National Day of Remembrance” at 3 p.m. today to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day.

  • Aid the widows, widowers, orphans, and families of our fallen dead. Aid our disabled veterans.

  • Write to and encourage those soldier, sailors, airmen and Marines who are currently serving our nation in this time of war.

  • Most of all, teach your children and grand children the meaning of Memorial Day.  Next year bring them to this Memorial Day Ceremony.

     So, as I close with a poem on this sacred day remember the names, lives and sacrifices of these 16 heroes from Mt. Pulaski.

Memorial Day Poem (written by Michelle Keim)

As we stand here looking

At the flags upon these graves

Know these flags represent

A few of the true American brave


They fought for their Country

As man has through all of time

Except that these veterans lying here

Fought for your country and mine


As we all are gathered here

To pay them our respect

Let’s pass this word to others

It’s what they would expect


I’m sure that they would do it

If it were me or you

To show we did not die in vane

But for the red, white and blue.


Let’s pass on to our children

And to those who never knew

What these veterans died for

It’s the least we can do



Let’s not forget their families

Great pain they had to bear

Losing a son, father or husband

They need to know we still care


No matter which war was fought

On the day that they died

I stand here looking at these flags

Filled with American pride.


So as the bugler plays out Taps

With its sweet and eerie sound

Pray for these veterans lying here

In this sacred, hallowed ground.


Take home with you a sense of pride

You were here Memorial Day

Celebrating the way Americans should

On this solemnest of days.[1]

[1] Memorial Day by Michelle Keim.