More than 100 people holding flags and poppies on Monday came to honor those who served their country, "the heroes” that Del. Richard “Dick” Black (R-32) mentioned as he spoke at the podium.
Small flags lined the walkway to where Black stood Memorial Day morning. Behind him the four flags of the Sterling Area Veterans' Memorial were still at half-staff, where they would remain until 11:30 a.m. for the raising of the colors.
Real heroes are not about fame and fortune but about "courage and sacrifice, of giving and asking nothing in return," said Black, keynote speaker for the nearly hour-long ceremony. “This Memorial Day, we reflect upon the courage of those fallen heroes. ... This Memorial Day, we commemorate those who were the ultimate guarantors of freedom.”
The Sterling Area Veterans’ Memorial Day 2003 Ceremony aimed to put the "memorial" back in Memorial Day, said Commander Steven Missimer of American Legion Post 150 in Sterling, the organization sponsoring the event. "The 'memorial' in Memorial Day has been ignored by too many of us who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often we don’t observe the day as it should be ... by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes, by visiting memorials, by flying the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon," he said.
STERLING'S MEMORIAL began with a moment of silence that Missimer asked for in his welcome. "At a time in our world when things are so tenable, it is just and right that we have a moment of pause to honor those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to a great nation," he said.
The ceremony continued with an invocation from James “Jim” Luttrell, U.S. Army (retired). “Teach us to honor them by cherishing the ideas by which they fought,” he said.
The Sterling United Methodist Choir sang "God Bless America." Boy Scout Troop 956 led the Pledge of Allegiance. The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9478 gave a rifle salute. Park View High School band members performed the taps. And the Boy Scouts raised the colors.
The "National Anthem" was sung, a benediction was given and the ceremony ended with the singing of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," led again by the church choir.
"I am happy to see all of you here today to honor our fallen comrades and our disabled veterans on this National Day of Remembrance," Missimer said.
Memorial Day observes the price war veterans paid for a free nation.
"The blood of American heroes lies on the fields at Bunker Hill and Gettysburg, at Vicksburg and the Belleau Wood, at Normandy Beach and Iwo Jima, at Heartbreak Ridge and at Hue City. Our heroes' blood now lies too on the road to Baghdad," Black said. "Countless GI's have paid the final price during heroic encounters in the sky, on the sea, and in jungles and deserts across the globe."
Originally, Memorial Day was a Union day of celebration held on May 30, then was adopted by the rest of the country. In 1971, Congress delegated the holiday to the last Monday of May.
The American Legion and VFW sponsor the Sterling Area Veterans' Memorial Day Ceremony in alternate years.