The message was to the point at two Memorial Day services hosted Saturday by the Anoka County Veterans Council – “never forget, ever honor.”
The services were almost identical at the two locations, Morningside Memorial Gardens in Coon Rapids followed by the Veterans Memorial at Bunker Hills Regional Park.
A procession of veterans organizations in Anoka County and Boy Scout troops started each service followed by raising the colors; POW and MIA Angel service; veterans organizations and children placing wreaths and flowers, respectively; Betty Orton singing “Light a Candle for Peace” and “Sleep Soldier Boy;” Harold Reiner playing “I’ll Be Seeing You” on the trumpet; Diane Bohlman, Anoka County Veterans Council chaplain, reading “In Flanders’ Field;” a rifle salute by all squads; and Bob Pellow, Metro Marines, playing taps.
At the Morningside Memorial Gardens, there was also a reading by Gary Exley, Anoka County Veterans Council chairperson and Blaine VFW commander, of the names of those veterans buried in the cemetery’s Field of Honor, while the bell at the cemetery tolled.
In addition, during the procession from 117th Avenue to Morningside Memorial Garden, a stop was made at the University Avenue bridge over Sand Creek where a wreath was tossed in the creek and a rifle squad fired off rounds to honor those lost a sea.
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo was the guest speaker. In his introduction, Exley credited Palumbo with establishing a veterans court program to give veterans a second opportunity to get their lives back together if they commit misdemeanors, giving them lighter sentences.
In his presentation at both services, Palumbo gave a brief history of how the Memorial Day tradition came about and then presented his thoughts on the meaning of Veterans Day in today’s world.
Its roots can be traced back to the Civil War, and Decoration Day became an annual remembrance in 1868 on May 30, then following World War I it was expanded to honor those who had fallen in all America’s wars, according to Palumbo.
In 1967, Decoration Day became Memorial Day and in 1971, federal legislation changed the day to the last Monday in May, rather than May 30, Palumbo said.
At the same time, people were asked to stop for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember those who have died in service to their nation, he said.
Too often, the importance of Memorial Day is lost and it has become just another national holiday, a day off from work and store sales, Palumbo said.
“It is important to remember this day in respect of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “It can and should be no less.”
They are heroes whose actions in the past “have given us the ability to plan our future,” Palumbo said.
Anoka County veterans organizations taking part in the services and sponsoring the picnic that followed the Bunker Hills Regional Park event included the nine VFW posts and auxiliaries, seven American Legion posts and auxiliaries, Military Order of the Cooties and 40&8, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Desert Storm veterans and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.