The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Memorial Day: Communities Salute Their Fallen Veterans

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner

The Memorial Day weekend in our Midwestern counties were busy with salutes to our fallen veterans, thanks in the most part, to other Veterans and American Legion and Auxiliary members who conduct the services. Even a "Sons of Veterans" was newly organized last July and began in September in Dallas City to carry on the traditions of their fathers and to encourage patriotism.

Dallas City Legion Commander for American Legion Post #297 is Kevin Brewer where enrollment has increased from 50 to 70 members since he has taken charge several years ago.

Now his 18 year old son John Brewer is Senior Vice Commander of the new Sons of American Legion with 22 members.

John is seeking a Navy career like his father who served from 1982-'91. He will leave for the Great Lakes, Chicago for basic training, July 14th and then on to San Antonio, Texas seeking training as a Medical Hospital corpsman where there is over 200 different fields to choose from EMT to doctor, he said.

Both father and son said they joined to serve their country and John is hoping to make it a career.

Commander Brewer is proud to have served and has enjoyed having the Dallas City Legion Post more active as they now are taking part in funerals, with rifles and 21 gun salutes and taps, marching in parades, going to schools and graduations, as well as programs for Veterans Day and the very important Memorial Day services.

It was a special honor Monday to have Captain Brian Shipman, USN, Chief of Staff Aegis Ballistic Missle Defense as a main speaker. He is from Dallas City, son of Veteran and American Legion member Ronald and Sandra Shipman.

The program was at the Dallas City's beautiful Veterans Memorial where 450 veterans are listed on stones that circle the flagpoles. General Army National Guard, Retired James Luder opened with the invocation and Father Trosley gave the closing prayer. Dallas City Mayor Ruth Higgins made introductions including that of Captain Shipman "It's great to be back in Dallas City after 2 years - too long," Captain Shipman said.

"One part of my current job is to speak at various professional forums - it is one of my duties.

"However, I can say that it is my honor and my privilege to be asked to speak here today, and I thank Commander Brewer and the American Legion Post 297 for their invitation, and I thank the Mayor for allowing me back in the city limits."

In salute to the special day, Captain Shipman said:

"Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that honors soldiers and is observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, which came from the practice of decorating soldiers' graves during the Civil War, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service.

"First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.

"The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from "Decoration Day" to "Memorial Day", which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.

"Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not.

"It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 (since 1911) and the Coca-Cola 600 (since 1960).

"For this event, I'd like to focus on the more traditional meaning of Memorial Day.

"When military members take the oath, and solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution, we also agree to abide by a code of conduct. Article 1 of the U. S. Military Code of Conduct states: I am an American fighting man, serving in the forces that guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Today, let us especially remember these people who fulfilled their obligation to that code:

Todd, you were a good man, a great friend and a loving son. 24 years doesn't make it hurt any less. Rest easy, Marine, we have the watch.

Dallas City's annual observance is very special to me. I've been to Memorial Day observances in big cities, and while they have more glitz and ceremony and longer-winded speakers, none of them have more heart and more feeling than this one. This is TRULY something to be proud of. But perhaps it isn't that surprising; take for instance my true love - Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyers. Three of them in today's Navy are named for people from very near here - USS MILIUS named for CDR Paul Milius of Denver, Iowa, recipient of the Navy Cross, USS HOWARD named for SSGT Jimmy Howard of Burlington, IA, Medal of Honor recipient, and USS THE SULLIVANS, named for the Sullivan brothers from Waterloo.

Paul Milius, Jimmy Howard, George, Frank, Joe, Matt and Al Sullivan - heroes and patriots, and all of them not unlike our heroes and Patriots of today, like SGT Kenny Ray, Master Sergeant John Gittings or LTCOL Mike Alsbrook.

Dallas City has many other heroes and Patriots who we remember today who thankfully did not have to make the ultimate sacrifice. But it is important to remember them, not only for their service in uniform, but for their service afterward. People like SGT Jim Sutton, MAJ Ettore Serangeli, Airman Jerry Duffy and Able Seaman George Walters proudly served their country and then returned home and became Jim "Big Daddy" Sutton, Babe Serangeli, Officer Duffy and George the Fisherman - they were our neighbors, our parents, our little league coaches, our first responders - they helped make our community a community. They helped build and maintain the society that my generation of soldiers/Sailors/airmen/Marines/guardsmen find important enough to take the oath and defend.

"I have been to countries where service is not optional; where a kid from a farming town who does not have a certain lineage would have no chance to aspire past the very lowest rungs of the military hierarchy - much less command a warship.

"In this country, we have the freedom to gather and conduct a Memorial Day observance of our own accord, without fear of being imprisoned or killed because we were not celebrating some "Dear Leader" otherwise known as a dictator.

"It is the very fabric of this country which inspires young men and women to join the services and defend the greatness it has to offer. Jim Cerione, Joshua Palmer and Todd Kershner gave their lives defending this great country. Jim Sutton, Babe Serangeli, Jerry Duffy, George Walters and many of the people listed on the stones of this memorial served, defended and returned to perpetuate the greatness of this country.

"It is my hope that the next generation of Patriots will find inspiration from them as well as from our current generation of Patriots - like Kenny Ray, John Gittings, Mike Alsbrook - and maybe even from me. As long as Dallas City continues to have Patriots such as Commander Brewer and the members of the American Legion Post conducting events such as this one, honoring those to whom we owe so much - I am confident that will happen.

"God bless Dallas City and God bless America! Thank you." he concluded.