“Since the birth of the United States, no single generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending our freedom by force of arms. Freedom is not free – it comes at a very high price,” Judith Henson said.
Henson, the regent of the Urbana chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was the guest speaker at the Memorial Day remembrance event at Oak Dale Cemetery in Urbana.
Also at the remembrance were representatives from the American Legion Post 120, AMVETS Post 121, DAV Chapter 31 and VFW Post 5451. The Urbana Champaign County Senior Center’s Guys and Dolls performed the National Anthem and other songs, and Jim White flew his Cessna O-1 “Bird Dog” over the event.
The ceremony featured 10 plaques created at the direction of member of the DAV Chapter 31 and VFW Post 5451 officer Dave Brandeberry. The plaques recognize Urbana soldiers killed in Vietnam. Brandeberry, himself a Vietnam veteran, noted a lot of those deaths occurred while he was serving.
“It was very meaningful to me to pay tribute to them,” he said.
The plaques will be on display when The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is on display in Urbana June 9-13 in front of the former armory at 1412 N. Main St.
Brandeberry said he is still seeking volunteers for 24-hour security while the wall is in town, and those interested can call U.S. Graphics at 653-4680.
Residents gathered to remember their community members who died in service, and those still among us.
Urbana resident Sharon Sells said she has had many relatives who served the country, and she attended the event to “honor and respect the soldiers who died for our freedoms.”
Janet “Booger” Wray and her husband, Dave, come out every year to recognize service people. Dave is a Vietnam veteran, and he remembers going to school with some of those who were lost.
Carl “Doc” Miller, who runs area service clubs, also wanted to recognize the sacrifices made.
“(Memorial Day) is a time to respect everyone who gave their lives, not just past veterans. It is a special day,” he said.
Barbara Gingrey of Urbana spends the day thanking those who served.
“I thank everybody who fought to save our freedoms, so we can worship the way we want, attend any ceremony we want, and we are not restricted in it. I thank the ones that have gone before, and the ones still active.”
Both Memorial Day and Veterans Day can be tough for Vietnam veteran Ron Gingrey, Barbara’s husband, who served in the Army during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War.
“It’s an emotional day,” he said, fighting back tears. “I think of the guys who lost their lives and there was nothing we could do about it.”
During the ceremony, Henson recognized the 1.2 million American soldiers and service people killed while serving their country on the 150th anniversary of the start of Memorial Day. Henson said Memorial Day grew out of a desire to recognize soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. She said it was not until World War I that both residents of the North and South agreed to acknowledge the same day for remembrance, and included all service people instead of just those lost during the Civil War.
Henson said in the past 241 years, Americans have lost their lives in 83 wars and assorted military actions.
“We pay tribute to those servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We honor them for preserving our freedom – the freedom to gather here today in a free country,” she said. “It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to protect and preserve that freedom. For more than 240 years, Americans have been sacrificing their lives on battlefields worldwide. No matter the place or the cause, their loss is equally meaningful.”
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.