Memorial Day: Remembering those who stood for freedom

Published 10:46 am Monday, May 29, 2023

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Beneath a perfect May sky, people turned out on Memorial Day to honor those who could no longer feel the sun on their own faces.

Starting at the Veterans Memorial in Austin, services were conducted around our area and joined with those services from around the country to remember the sacrifices made by more than 1 million Americans through the course of the country’s history.

“Think for a moment, what our country would be like had they not fought for us,” said United State Marine Corps veteran Sarah Huinker at the Oakwood Cemetery service. “Because of them, more people experience liberty and freedom than ever. It was veterans who paid the high price to get us all to this point.”

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Sacrifice was a common theme throughout the day and it went hand-in-hand with the desire of ordinary men and women to defend and serve their country.

It was a moment touched on by United States Army veteran Mary Fargen at the Veterans Memorial. 

“We came from different places, but we had one goal in mind,” she said. “Your freedom. We never left our fallen comrades and friends.”

The ceremonies didn’t stray from those services of years past, featuring music, prayer and honor guards, but the day’s message carried just as resolutely.

By continuing to share the messages and upholding the day, people continue to recognize what so many gave up their lives defending.

“As we observe Memorial Day, we do more than simply carry on a tradition dating back to 1866,” Huinker said. “We also fulfill a commitment to some very special people.”

It was a sentiment that echoed Fargen’s message from earlier in the morning.

“Let us now honor the soldiers who shed their blood for our country,” she said simply.

During her speech to those gathered around Oakwood’s Civil War Memorial, Huinker touched on how that sacrifice has been upheld across the long history of the United States, starting with the first shots of the American Revolution and through today’s modern conflicts on foreign shores.

That heavy weight of giving one’s life came on the shoulders of men and women who willingly went into harm’s way.

“It is not for money or medals that such heroes step forward,” Huinker said. “It is to act out their patriotism; patriotism based on ideals on which this country was founded: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

During both ceremonies, VFW Post 1216 Commander Scott Wiechmann added his voice to those of the speakers, urging people to enjoy the beautiful day Monday, but to also carry the day’s same reverence through the days after as well.

“I know people who are here today understand what this day means,” Wiechmann said.

Following the Veterans Memorial tribute, Wiechmann also revealed that a rededication for the Veterans Memorial will be held next year following work to the site.