Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hundreds turn out in tribute

Memorial Day ceremonies conducted at national cemeteries

May 30, 2007

— Mark "Skidmark" Von Morrison and his friends from Leavenworth's ABATE district, a national motorcycle organization, revved up their bikes on Memorial Day and cruised into the Leavenworth National Cemetery to honor their fallen soldiers and family.

Many of the riders are military veterans and connect through local bike clubs.

Von Morrison was in the Army and the Marines, three years each. His friend and Marine veteran, David Fryman, said this was his 15th year riding to the service. His father and grandfather are also buried there.

"We probably have spots out here, too," Von Morrison said.

The bikers presented wreaths at the ceremony. It is a tradition, Von Morrison said, that seemed to grow this year.

Several service organizations including American Legion Posts and Auxiliary Units and Disabled American Veterans chapters also participated.

"There were a lot more people represented presenting wreaths," he said. "I think a lot more people are paying attention to troops this year, because of the Iraq War."

After the wreath-laying ceremony, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Richard Keller gave the Memorial Day Address. Keller served for 35 years and commanded at every level from platoon to Army division. He retired Sept. 20, 1996.

From behind an engraved stone lectern that read, "The Glory of Their Deeds Lives," he said, "I wonder who lies here and what stories? Each personal story must be as important as yours and mine."

He said all the heroes and humble veterans in attendance made a decision that America was worth protecting.

"America with all its imperfections and flaws is still a noble place," he said.

The 500th Fort Leavenworth Military Police Detachment provided a national salute. Members fired three cannons several times in succession over a hill as approximately 200 people looked on.

Families were scattered throughout manicured rows of gravestones during and after the ceremony.

Andrea Rush traveled from Kansas City, Mo., as she and her family does every year, to sit at the grave of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William McBride.

Rush's grandfather served in World War II.

Rush said her whole family, including her father, William McBride Jr., sits for hours in lawn chairs or on the grass to recall their family heritage and to just spend time together, she said.

Young volunteers

It only took an hour Saturday for Daneen McCullum and members of her Lansing Girl Scout Troop 54, along with other Girl and Boy Scout troops, to place some of the 23,000 American flags next to each gravesite at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

"I like it," said McCullum, 16. "It's a time when we remember all the people who died, and it's especially important to get young people involved."

Mike Caudle, a 2005 Leavenworth High School graduate, used to be one of the Scouts helping. This year, at Monday's Memorial Day service, he stood next to his mother as a 20-year-old U.S. Army Guard member, the third generation in his family to serve.

The ceremony's host, Brig. Gen. Mark E. O'Neill, acknowledged the "phenomenal job" of the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

"The link between the sons and daughters and those who have served is the foundation of what we stand for," he said to a large crowd, which included Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard and honored guest, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback.

O'Neill said 253,000 soldiers currently are deployed or forward stationed in nearly 80 countries overseas.

"Today's soldiers are keenly aware of those who have gone before them," he said. "Each soldier's life lost bears significance to us as citizens. The grieving of the survivors rests on us all, because they fought for us."

Brownback said he had visited several of the countries in the Middle East and said the military was "getting it done."

"I couldn't be prouder of them," he said. "I'm here just to say thank you."

McCullum, who was in attendance at the services, said she would be back at the cemetery on Tuesday with other troop members to pick up the flags.

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