Berne residents turn out to honor veterans
When guest speaker Guy Gruters was unable to attend the memorial service in Berne on Monday, American Legion Commander Les Wagner did what good soldiers do; he stepped up to the microphone and took Gruters' place with dignity and heart.
"We always come out and honor our veterans that have passed on before us," said Wagner to a well-attended Memorial Day service at the local Veterans Memorial. "Our comrades marched in here to honor those same veterans.
"The names on the walls behind me are inscribed forever. We will never take them away from their family and friends. Their place of importance in our nation is forever inscribed," continued Wagner. "There is nothing I can do to bring them back. All they ever fought for is expressed in the freedom we enjoy every day. When they went to service, their lives were blank checks and circumstances filled out those blanks."
Wagner referred to various Memorial Day activities going throughout the area including cookouts, time at the lake, family reunions and other activities that he lauded for their time to get together. But he was also proud of those who took the time from their activities to spend time at the tribute for veterans.
"We could be doing all kinds of things right now but we (veterans) prefer to be here greeting you people," said Wagner. "We thank all of you for taking the time for this important moment. We honor our veterans the way that they should be, with special gratitude, thanking them for their service."
Megan Miller presented a very moving and heart-given expression of the National Anthem.
A special dimension added to this year's service was an exhibit loaned from Decatur involving placing wreaths at symbolic crosses representing each conflict that American soldiers have been to or are involved with. In addition, Wagner praised the involvement of local Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts who he said are, "always out here helping us."
Many of the scouts expressed their feelings toward the special ceremony.
Adam Chrisman, who just joined Boy Scouts said that he understands the Memorial Day service as an opportunity to honor veterans that fought for freedom and who went to war to represent the United States.
"We are here because we respect all of those veterans that died for our freedom," commented Curtis Sprunger, also a Boy Scout. "They believed that we could be free. We do this in respect so that everyone can have freedom."
"It makes me feel really good to honor all of the soldiers. They deserve to be honored," observed Boy Scout Travis Nunley.
"We are here to honor people that fought in war for our freedom," noted Cub Scout Evan Etzkorn. "They knew that they were doing the thing that they should do in order to preserve freedom for our country."
"We realize how futile are mere words to express our deep and abiding sympathy in your loss," noted Wagner to veterans and families of veterans. "May you feel our comrade is at rest, and in endless peace. They have gone into the great beyond with hearts filled with wistful longing, as all must do.
"Surely there is an afterlife for all who have been loyal and true, a life to which light and peace shall come, where the burden shall be lifted and the heartaches shall cease, where the love, the hope and the fulfillment that escape us here shall be given to us, to be ours forever," added Wagner.
Chaplain John Porter prayed for comfort and compassion for those families who have and are mourning the loss of loved ones.
"O God, who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, look in tender pity and compassion upon thy servants whose joy has been turned into mourning," Porter prayed. "Leave them not comfortless, but grant that they may be drawn closer to thee and to one another by their common sorrow."
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