The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By: Mitch Worley, The Quill
The flags fluttered in the stiff summer breeze as the clouds began to break and allow the sun to shine upon all those in attendance that met at the La Harpe Community Park to honor servicemen and women, both past and present, for their sacrifices in theaters of war and conflict to protect out great nation's freedom.
Arleen Gard, American Legion Auxiliary President, welcomed everyone that showed up for the service, then introduced Emma Jack, Amanda Jack, and Erica Little to replace her at the podium to sing Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner" to set the tone.
The La Harpe American Legion Post #301 followed up their performance by offering the Presentation of Colors and led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, with Auxiliary Chaplain Jeanie Jones officially opening things up with a word of prayer after the pledge.
Gale Harn of the American Legion Auxiliary recited a poem entitled "Flowers of Remembrance" and then the crowd was treated to a stirring rendition of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" by Melissa Burt.
American Legion Commander Darrell Kraft gave opening remarks and set the agenda for the remaining portion of the service, also recalling his parents teaching him to honor Legion members and Memorial Day, making him feel extremely proud to now be a member himself and continue to represent the protection of freedom for the United States in his current capacity.
Another performance in song followed Kraft as the La Harpe Elementary Vocal Ensemble, lead by Mrs. Stephanie Mencel, treated the crowd to "We Remember".
Ken Brown, Legion member and Mayor of La Harpe, gave an address and told a story of amazing patriotism by a young man going off to war to a little girl that gave him something to take to her father who was currently off serving this great nation.
Mayor Brown also unveiled plans for further additions to be made to the memorial site at the park. The town will be adding more bricks to the nearly 600 bricks already in place to commemorate those that served and their branch of service to extend to the road, also adding permanent holders for branch flags for special ceremonies there in years to come. Three permanent flagpoles will be added for an American flag, the Illinois state flag, and a flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action.
A lesson in the history and significance of the precursor to the American Legion, the Grand Army Republic, was given by Legion member Dan Gillett, giving way next to American Legion Chaplain Michael Blythe to present mothers who had sons currently serving with the Blue Star Flags and mothers that had lost sons in battle with Gold Star Flags.
Jeanie Jones stepped back up to the podium for a closing prayer, followed by the Retiring of Colors and performance of "American Heritage March" by the La Harpe 7th and 8th Grade Band under the direction again of Mrs. Stephanie Mencel.
The American Legion fired the twenty-one-gun salute and they concluded the ceremony by performing "Taps" shortly thereafter.
Darrell Kraft greets the crowd and speaks of his pride in being a veteran and an American Legion member.
Mayor Kenny Brown also addressed the crowd and unveiled new plans for the Veterans' Memorial at the La Harpe City Park.