The American Legion Color Guard from the left are Brian Moor, Jack Underwood, John Becker, Gary Dumpert, Butch Jansen, Mark Beethe, Ray Franzen and Bob Becker.
Above- The Exeter-Milligan Band played “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America” and “A Salute to Freedom.” Below - Trystan Brandt plays "Taps."
Despite rain forecasted for the entire Memorial Day weekend, Monday morning dawned bright and beautiful. The Exeter Cemetery was resplendent with the avenue of flags flying and memorial blossoms.
The American Legion Post 218 color guard opened the ceremony and posted the colors. The Exeter-Milligan band played “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Master of Ceremonies and the main speaker was Legion member Tim Wilbeck who served in Vietnam. Wilbeck introduced Father Steve Thomlison, who gave the invocation. Thomlison serves as a chaplain in the military.
Recent Exeter-Milligan graduate Amber Pribyl read the Gettysburg address and her classmate Madison Horne read “In Flanders Field.”
The Exeter-Milligan band also played “America” and “A Salute to Freedom.” Wilbeck gave the address speaking about the many sacrifices that service members have made to keep our country free.
He spoke about Dale M. Hansen a 19 year old from Wisner, Nebraska who served during World War II and “fought like a giant” at Okinawa against the Japanese. Hansen “proceeded to destroy a strong mortar position and annihilated many enemy soldiers. . .His parents later received his medal of honor was as he was killed by a Japanese sniper four days after his amazing display of combat valor. Private Hansen like so many other defenders of freedom is forever young.”
He spoke of the heroism of Hansen and another young life lost too early, Brittany Gordon who was killed by a suicide bomb in Afghanistan.
Wilbeck shared these stories to remind the audience that Memorial Day is to honor, “Real people with real families. We can best honor their sacrifice by remember their family who have lost so much long after the battles are done and the bombs have stopped exploding. The children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent, the spouses will be missing life partners, parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters who died way to early. We need to cater to them not just as members of their family but as American citizens. No one can replace these fallen heroes especially in the eyes of their family. We can offer shoulders to cry on, assistance with educational expenses and assurances that their loved ones sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
He emphasized “Americans must remember that freedom isn’t free.”
Wilbeck spoke of the history of Memorial Day and its eventual establishment by Federal Law in 1957,”As the unofficial start of summer let us never lose focus of what Memorial day means. It’s not about the beaches, picnics, auto races or my favorite the memorial day sale. Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough.”
Wilbeck also reminded the audience a debt is also owed to our disabled American Veterans who also gave so much.
After the 21 gun salute "Taps" was played by Trystan Brandt and "Taps Echo" was played by Amber Pribyl. The color guard was dismissed and the crowd was invited to attend a dedication of the new memorial stone downtown and enjoy rolls and coffee at the Legion.