Greenhill Cemetery was silent as U.S. Army Sergeant Yuki Mura of the 67th Army Marching Band played a slow, melancholy rendition of “Taps” on his trumpet, the finishing notes to Laramie’s Memorial Day ceremonies Monday morning.
Hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2221 and the local American Legion Post 14, the ceremony included a speech, flag raising, a prayer and a roll call of soldiers and veterans who have died this year. After the bell rang for each name, the Honor Guard performed a rifle salute to honor their memories.
The morning’s chilly, blustery wind and looming threat of rain didn’t deter families and community members from attending the service and paying their respects.
Currently serving in the National Guard as a medic in the 133rd Engineer Company in Laramie, Dylan Lytle said Memorial Day helps him think not only of all soldier’s sacrifices, but his own family’s sacrifices, too.
“I have family that has served for years that I can trace back all the way to the Revolutionary War,” Lytle said after the ceremony. “So, it’s kind of a big thing to me to come out and spend a little bit of my time for their sacrifice that has given me all the freedoms I can appreciate today.”
Also looking at military family history, keynote speaker Rex Rees, retired Lt. Col. of the U.S. Air Force, talked about his father’s service in World War II. He detailed stories from his father and two of his comrades about their time as prisoners of war in Austria after being captured by German forces. In their accounts, Rees said, the soldiers detailed horrible living conditions in the camp of more than 40,000 prisoners, but also an unwavering adoration for the United States and its values, including grit, faith, trust and patriotism.
“I think we all realize the faith, values, spirit and motivations that those of us here today share with those 40,000 Americans 75 years ago,” Rees said during his speech. “These values have been present in our military since the revolutionary war and will continue to be passed on to future generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen.”
Many people attending the ceremony were offered a paper replica of a red poppy flower, a common symbol to honor the fallen soldiers of World War I. The poppy was often the first flower to grow after the wreckage of the war, as told in the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, which was read by Tonya O’Brien during the ceremony.
Additionally, Scott Houghton read Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address speech during the ceremony, and Vanessa Stuart of the American Legion read “Posting of Logan’s General Order No. 11,” the charge issued at the end of the Civil War to establish the first national observance for honoring fallen soldiers.