By Mr. Rhys Fullerlove (AMC)June 1, 2010
A slightly overcast day provided a fitting setting for the Memorial Day Service at Rock Island National Cemetery Monday.
Hundreds came to honor those who have fallen and ones that serve. Like every year, this day holds its own special meaning for everyone.
"Whether it be World War II, Vietnam, Korean, or the Gulf wars now; it is important to thank them for the service they've done," said Barbara Moser, a visitor to the National Cemetery.
Similar comments were echoed for others at the ceremony that came to pay their respects.
"We honor our country, and all those who served and died or lived for us," explained Sandy Bellinger. "It is a very heartwarming essential part of what we do on Memorial Day." Bellinger said.
The keynote speaker, Col. Craig S. Cotter, commander, Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, talked about how important it is for a community to come together and remember those who fought for our freedom.
"It is absolutely indicative of the type of family and community support that we have here in the Quad Cities for the Armed Forces of the United States," Cotter said. "It really says a lot about the strength and the power of this nation when so many people come together to remember that sacrifice our Warfighters make."
An "echo" was a key theme to Cotter's address. Cotter started his message by reading the famous World War I poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae, "In Flanders Field". However, he mixed in stanzas that echoed the Arsenal Cemetery.
"At the Arsenal, the winds of the Mississippi Blow
Between the headstones row on row
The Midwest is our eternal resting place, and in the sky
The waterfowl and eagles still fly
Scarce heard at the island below," Cotter recited.
In his speech, he compared stories of heroes from long ago, such as Medal of Honor recipient 2nd Lt. Audie Murphy to local heroes of today, such as Sgt. 1st Class Dillon Behr, who was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat against an enemy of the United States during operations Afghanistan.
He closed his speech by asking the audience to visit places like the cemetery such as Arlington National Cemetery and silently thank them for their service and to thank a servicemember when you see them.
"Reach out and shake the hand of a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine-whether it's someone in uniform standing in line at the grocery checkout, or a veteran standing along a parade route saluting Old Glory as she passes by," Cotter said. "Tell them you understand the depths of their commitment, tell them you are in awe of their bravery, tell them simply, 'Thanks.' If the veteran is from Vietnam...welcome him home."