GILLETTE, Wyo. — This morning, roughly 100 people gathered at Mount Pisgah Cemetery to honor and remember people who died while serving in the U.S. military.
American Legion Post 42 Commander Clarence Barry, one of the speakers, said that the American Legion, VFW, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol WY069 and others placed more than 1,100 flags at veterans’ graves, which are marked with white crosses, on May 29. With the team effort, it only took about a half-hour.
Sandy Cook with American Legion played “In Flanders Fields,” and Wyoming VFW Auxiliary Past State President Jan Miller led the laying of the wreath. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gary Rye, who said he has COPD, played “Taps.” American Legion First Vice Commander Rod Warne sang the national anthem.
Retired Army Col. Denton Knapp, who was with the VFW flag detail color guard, said the ceremony takes place annually. He and his wife, Heather, placed flowers on the graves of their grandfathers, who were World War II veterans.
Knapp recalled in a May 2019 letter the deaths of three men whom he served with in Baghdad: Sgt. First Class Marshall, Staff Sgt. Stever and NBC reporter David Bloom, who died on April 7, 2003.
“This was the first time I saw fellow service members die in combat, and that first Memorial Day after redeploying was when I really understood what Memorial Day was about — it’s not about those of us who made it back, but about those we lost and the families they left behind,” he said.
He said today that he especially remembers these men this year, which is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It’s best to remind each other to have a “Worthy Memorial Day,” as the freedom that members of the military died defending ought not to be taken for granted, Knapp said in the letter. Honoring those who died involves talking about their deeds, their relationships and their lives.
“Listen to the stories from those they left behind,” he said, “and may you have a meaningful and worthy Memorial Day.”
Civil Air Patrol cadets placed flags along Gillette Avenue in downtown Gillette, too. They will take down the flags this afternoon.
“There is a lot of patriotism in this county,” Barry said.