Williams honors those who served their country

WILLIAMS – “Memorial Day is a sacred day,” said Williams American Legion Post #633 Commander Wayne Wahlert during Memorial Day services on Monday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

“A day set aside to remember those who gave their lives – all that they had and all that they would ever have – to insure the freedoms and liberty that we enjoy today.”

“We must never forget Our freedom has a long history of sacrifice,” said Wahlert.

President Abraham Lincoln as re-enacted by Jim Stafford, recited the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s address was given in November 1863 at the battleground in Pennsylvania where more than 170,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought. An estimated 50,000 men were killed, wounded or reported missing.

“It is rather, for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” read Stafford from the Gettysburg Address.

Jayden, Luke and Jacob Muench distributed a flag star memento to attending veterans. Stars were cut from worn and retired flags, then placed in a small plastic bag with a promise that they will not be forgotten.

Cindi Sweedler spoke of her participation in the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight on May 10 to Washington, D.C. with World War II and Korean War veterans.

Sweedler accompanied her father, Alfred Baade of Titonka, and served as one of the 160 medical support staff who assisted the 100 veterans who left Ft. Dodge at 5 a.m. and returned to central Iowa at 10:30 p.m.

“The oldest was 91 years old,” said Sweedler, adding that many travelled with oxygen and in wheelchairs. “But in Washington, D.C., they stepped a little taller and walked a little prouder.”

“I feel it was an honor to travel with these veterans,” said Sweedler, who noted that when they left their homes for foreign lands as young men, they had no benefit of technology that kept them immediately connected with their families.

Sweedler related the stories that many veterans shared about incessant hunger and frozen rations, the close quarters of a foxhole, the suffering from sea sickness and the exhilaration of driving a tank into battle.

Veterans shared the more somber moments of when a buddy was injured or worse, when they were killed.

“But these men got up everyday with resolve to do it again,” she said of the veterans who felt it was their “honor to do my duty, to protect my home, my friends and my country.”

“Too often freedom is taken for granted,” said Sweedler. She summed up the totals from just two of the monuments dedicated to the sacrifice of veterans in Washington, D.C. – the 420 stars on the World War II monument where each star represents 100 deaths and the 70,000 names listed on the Vietnam War memorial.

Sweedler called on the community to give thanks everyday to veterans. She highlighted three ways that can be accomplished: Be active in the Honor Flight program; Respect and honor the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance; and talk to veterans.

“It is said that with every veteran who dies, a library closes,” said Sweedler, who urged people to talk to the veterans in their families.

“To those who are active and to those who are not here, I give my respect for all the gifts you have given to me,” said Sweedler.

Throughout the ceremony, a slide show presentation by Evan and Logan Mark showed the graves of the 168 area veterans buried at the Williams and Rose Grove Church cemeteries. The photographs were compiled by Wayne and Connie Wahlert.

Following the ceremonies at St. Paul’s, an Honor Guard 21-gun salute was given at the Williams City Park Veterans’ Memorial, Williams Cemetery, St. Mary’s Cemetery and Blairsburg Cemetery.