American Legion Post 9 hosts Memorial Day ceremony

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

American Legion Post 9 honored fallen troops at a Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning.

Chaplain Ferguson Stewart kicked off the ceremony with a prayer, thanking God for taking care of living and dead servicemen.

“May they rest in peace and may light perpetually shine upon them,” Stewart said. “Let us never fail to remember the awesome cost of the freedom we enjoy.”

Commander Mark Pepple pointed out the POW/MIA Empty Chair in front of the room. The chair is meant to honor those who were captured or lost at war, Pepple said, and never made it back home.

“It’s a reminder to all of us to spare no effort to secure the release of the American prisoners from captivity, the repatriation of the remains of those who died bravely in defense of liberty and a full accounting of those who are still missing,” Pepple said as vice-commander Jim Weatherford draped the POW/MIA flag over the chair.

Pepple invited his friend Bobby Wilson to speak about a new way to honor veterans. Wilson said the idea came to him when he was on an airplane, and he hasn’t forgotten it since. He thought it would be best, Wilson said, if Americans honor veterans by silently nodding in respect.

“It’s real simple,” Wilson said.

He took the idea to U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, who passed it on to a military liaison. Wilson said he heard from the liaison recently, saying the military is interested in implementing the idea across-the-board.

“I have a vision that when you’re seeing parades, people of any age, any color, any size can simply nod their head,” Wilson said. “It’s so simple, but it’s really catching momentum.”

He’s especially grateful the idea is catching on, Wilson said, with the political atmosphere in America.

“This past year or two, every time you pick up a newspaper or read the news or you’re looking at a ballgame, it’s sad. It’s sad,” Wilson said. “A lot of people aren’t standing for the flag. They aren’t putting their hand over their heart. They’re just, in my opinion, paying disrespect.”

Pepple continued with his comments, saying he wanted to read Johnny Cash’s song “Ragged Old Flag.” In the song, Cash describes speaking with a man about the “ragged old flag” outside a small courthouse. The man explains all the conflicts the flag has been through, including the Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Breaking into tears, Pepple read, “ ‘On second thought, I do like to brag, because we’re mighty proud of that ragged old flag.’ ”

Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry was the guest speaker, offering a bit of history behind Memorial Day. Memorial Day was first widely observed in 1868, Berry said, when it was still called Declaration Day. With a proclamation, Berry said, citizens throughout American became aware of what we now know as Memorial Day.

“The celebration commemorated the sacrifices of the Civil War,” Berry said. “Following the proclamation, participants decorated graves of more than 25,000 Confederate and Union soldiers.”

Ever since World War I, Berry continued, the day became a celebration of those who died during all of America’s wars. Memorial Day was named a national holiday in 1971, he said.

“The United States celebrates its holiday the last Monday of May as a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all,” Berry said.

American Legion Post 9 has been around much longer than most posts, Berry said. In fact, he said, the post is coming up on its 100th birthday next year.

“That’s pretty nice to me,” Berry said. “It kind of hits my heart to be home to one of the first American Legion groups in America.”

Millions of Americans have fought and died on battlefields, Berry said, and troops carry on that legacy today.

“As we lose troops, more Americans step forward to serve,” Berry said. “They follow in the footsteps of generations of fine Americans. We’ve awarded medals to many soldiers to honor them for their bravery, but nothing can ever replace the hole left behind from fallen service members.”

He’s had several family members serve in the military, Berry said, and a few were lost in battle. His father, Herbert Waldo Berry, died serving in the Air Force in England when Berry was only 8 years old.

“I can still remember back in those days you had the Air Force members coming to tell families that loved ones had passed away,” Berry said. “As an 8-year-old child, that memory’s printed indelibly in my memory.”

Berry’s Uncle Bob Price died over the Pacific Ocean serving in the Air Force during World War II and his Uncle Drexel Berry died serving in the Navy during World War II. Berry said he’s happy to honor his family members who have served.

“I’m very grateful for my military family and their services, and I honor their memory for they’re a big part of my life and my memory,” Berry said. “I have a lot of love and respect for the military.”

He continued, “We gather to pay gratitude to those who have served. It’s one small we way can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so we can live in freedom. Thank you for attending today and remembering those who have fallen. God bless you and your family. God bless our troops, and God bless America.”

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