ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Army Sustainment Command officers and noncommissioned officers fanned out over Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois speaking at numerous Memorial Day events during the holiday weekend May 24-26.

Silvis, Ill.

Maj. Gen. John Wharton, commanding general of the Army Sustainment Command and senior mission commander of Rock Island Arsenal, spoke at a Memorial Day Ceremony at Hero Street Memorial Park in Silvis, Ill., May 24. Silvis mayor, Tom Conrad; District 17 Congresswoman, Cheri Bustos; and First Ward Representative, Alderman Robert Cervantes also spoke.

"Here in Silvis, at Hero Street, you've done much more than reserve a day or a weekend to remember the fallen. You've built a special place along the busiest thoroughfare in town that stands as a permanent reminder of the eight heroes of Hero Street, and that connects anyone who visits here with the heroes of Hero Street and -- in a larger sense -- that connects all Americans with all of those who paid the ultimate price so that we could live free, Wharton said. "The brave patriots of Hero Street are among the more than 1.3 million Americans who have given their lives in all of the nation's wars and conflicts since we fought for our independence during the Revolutionary War.

"…There are holes in our hearts that can never be filled. The loved ones who are left to remember the fallen will always feel the pain of loss, no matter how many years have passed," Wharton said. On all days -- but on Memorial Day above all others -- we should remember those who still grieve, comfort them, and offer them sincere sympathy from the very bottom of our hearts."

Miles, Iowa

Members of American Legion Post 677 in Miles, Iowa, remembered the fallen during a Memorial Day ceremony in Miles, Iowa, May 26. Sgt. Maj. Brian Marone, Distribution Management Center senior enlisted adviser, was the keynote speaker.
Approximately 50 people gathered in the gymnasium at Easton Valley High School to witness the ceremony hosted by the American Legion.

Marone began by thanking the members of the American Legion for inviting him to speak.
"Over the years, the Memorial Day weekend has become the unofficial start of summer, and of the summer travel and vacation season," said Marone. "But you and I, all of us who came to this observance today or who took the time to attend similar observances in other communities across America, know that this holiday has a much deeper meaning and a solemn purpose."
Legionnaires posted the colors to the front of the room and rendered honors before sitting in front of the audience. Local high school students sang the National Anthem and everyone then offered a moment of silence for those who have passed.

Miles is a town of nearly 500 people approximately one hour north of Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.

Savanna, Ill.

More than 200 spectators gathered in Savanna, Ill. to hear Lt. Col. Frank Gilbertson, ASC Strategic Planning Office, speak at the Savanna, Ill., Memorial Day ceremony, May 26.

Hosted by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2223 and American Legion Post 148, the ceremony was moved from the Savanna Township Cemetery to the West Carol Primary School due threatening weather. Gary Abney, Savanna Assembly of God Church, provided the invocation and the "Men of Calvary" choir sang the national anthem, the service medley and God Bless America.

"Unique to Memorial Day, the flag is set at half-staff until noon," Gilbertson said. "Flying the flag at half-staff is a well-known gesture of mourning -- and so, in the early hours of Memorial Day, we as a nation collectively mourn all of the 1.3 million individuals who died in uniform."

Emotions flowed throughout the audience as he spoke about mourning for "the young Soldier who lost his life earlier this year while patrolling a distant mountain in Afghanistan."

"Then, at noon on Memorial Day, the flag should be raised to the top," Gilbertson said. "A high-flying flag on Memorial Day afternoon reminds us that those who gave their lives did not die in vain. Because of what they did for us, we enjoy the blessings of freedoms, and all of the advantages that come with living in this great nation. When we salute the flag, we salute them," he said.

Commander Paul Mayer, American Legion Post 148, and Commander Bruce Mottin, VFW Post 2223, presented a memorial wreath that was later moved to the veteran's monument at the Savanna Township Cemetery.

Members of the VFW and American Legion provided an honor guard rifle salute and taps to close the ceremony.

Donahue, Iowa

Nestled in the rolling farmland about 13 miles northwest of Davenport, Iowa, in the town of Donahue, about 75 people came out to honor the fallen at nearby Allen's Grove Cemetery, May 26.

Donahue, a small farming community, has about 350 residents.

The ceremony, organized by American Legion Post 532, started at 10:30 a.m. and even featured a real bugler playing "Taps." The post is commanded by Fred Van Hoozier, a Navy veteran of the Korean War, who served from 1951 to 1955.

Col. Scott Smith, Army Sustainment Command at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., addressed attendees with a speech that focused on the sacrifices the fallen heroes from previous wars made.

Quoting former President Ronald Reagan, Smith said: "Most of those who died in defense of our country were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living, and the one they would've lived. They gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember."

Smith, a 28-year veteran, heads up Information Management at ASC.

He told of the thankful citizens across the United States and other areas of the world, who honor the "best and noblest" who are no longer here today.

"Memorial Day is a day of conflicting emotions for each of us; a blend of pride and mournfulness, gratitude and loss, and a deep abiding sense of patriotism," Smith said.

Smith also addressed the importance of keeping Memorial Day ceremonies alive and well.

"As we speak of the present and the distant past, it is up to us to make sure the legacy of our nation's fallen is passed on from this generation to the next, and then on to all generations beyond," Smith said. "We must ensure the youth of tomorrow are aware and understand of whom it is they should likewise honor … and exactly why they should honor them."

With that in mind, Madison Knoche, 11, of Donahue's John Glenn Elementary, presented her thoughts on what she considers the most important symbol in the world -- the American flag.

"The American flag represents our country and who we are," Knoche said. "It stands for freedom and we get to be ourselves; that's where the phrase "I'm proud to be an American" comes from, she said.

"The colors on the American flag aren't just colored fabric, they actually mean something. White stands for purity and innocence. Red represents hardiness and valor, and the last color, which is blue, symbolizes justice, perseverance, and vigilance," Knoche explained.

Preston, Iowa

Members of American Legion Post 602 in Preston, Iowa, remembered the fallen during Memorial Day ceremonies at two locations in and near Preston, May 26. Sgt. Maj. Brian Marone, Distribution Management Center senior enlisted adviser, was the keynote speaker.
Approximately 150 people attended the events.

Crowds first gathered at the Preston Cemetery which was lined with American flags to watch members of Post 602 raise the cemetery colors from half-staff. Once the flag was raised, the honor guard rendered a gun salute before Taps was played.

Next, the legionnaires and community members drove into town for the second half of the day's ceremony. Members of Post 602 and Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of America members, marched the American flag from the American Legion clubhouse to the city center, approximately a football field's length. Once there, the American flag was raised from half-staff and the honor guard conducted a gun salute.

Community members then moved into the town hall building where the local high school band played Amazing Grace and Marone delivered his speech.

Preston is a town of less than 1,000 people approximately one hour north of Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.

Clermont, Iowa

Staff Sgt. Kevin Hopson, ASC badging officer, spoke at the Clermont Memorial Day Service in Lincoln Park, May 26. The event, organized by the Sheehan-Olson American Legion Post 375 of Clermont, Iowa, also featured a 10-year-old boy who read his essay about the U.S. Flag, a reading of the nearly 300 names of Clermont residents who had died serving their country, and a 21 gun salute honoring the fallen.

Milan, Ill.

Col. William Krahling, commander of ASC's Distribution Management Center, spoke at the Milan American Legion Post 569 Memorial Day Observance, May 26. He emphasized sacrifices made by service members and told a story about a major he served with who was selected to attend the Command General Staff College but declined due to his wife's illness.

Galva, Ill.

Sgt. Maj. Douglas Martin, Operations sergeant major the ASC deputy commanding general, spoke at the Galva, Ill., Memorial Day Commemoration at the Galva Cemetery, May 26.

"Over the years, Memorial Day weekend has become known as the unofficial start of summer," Martin said. "But to many of us, it has a much deeper and solemn meaning."

Sabula, Iowa

To round things out, 1st Sgt. Previn Parker, first sergeant for ASC's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, spoke at the City of Sabula, Iowa, Memorial Day Service at Riverfront Park May 26.

Additional photos from the above events can be viewed/downloaded at:

Editors Note: The following individuals contributed to this report: Dan Carlson, Jon Connor, Galen Putnam, Maj. Yokeitha Ramey, Bonnie Seals, Greg Wilson, Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Wright.