Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Memorial Day Ceremony Honors Those Who Gave All
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The Mountain Home Air Force Base Honor Guard advances the colors.
   
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

After a year without a Memorial Day service due to the COVID pandemic, Wood River Valley residents turned out in force to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“That’s the sound of freedom,” said Organizer Geegee Lowe, as four A-10’s from the 124th Fighter Wing at Gowen Field roared over the Hailey Cemetery.

The sun shone bright in a cloudless sky on a sea of American flags that volunteers had placed on the gravesites of the 431 known veterans to laid to rest in the cemetery. John Primrose told of his fellow Marine Corps and Navy comrades who had been killed in 9-11 and afterwards in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 
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The crowd says the Pledge of Allegiance.
 

“You know people who gave  all,” he told the crowd. “Let’s teach generations to come that this is the price, this is the cost, of freedom.”

As the Mountain Home Air Force Base Honor Guard placed the Battlefield Cross, carved out of wood by Hailey veteran Glenn Carter, Lowe recounted how the Cross was initialized during the Civil War as a means of identifying bodies on the battlefield before removal.

Before the Civil War, fallen soldiers were buried where they fell, she said. But Civil War soldiers were sent home to be laid to rest. So, when a battle was over, people would walk through the battlefield marking soldiers’ bodies by sticking the soldier’s bayonet attached to his rifle in the ground and placing his helmet on top.

“The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldiers, their names never to be forgotten,” said Lowe. “The inverted rifle with the bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute to the fallen. The combat boots, worn and dirty, represent the final march of the soldier’s last battle.”

 
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The crowd keeps their hands on their hearts as Hailey Veteran John Primrose sings the “Star Spangled Banner.”
 

Joan Davies reminded those present how on the 11th hour, the 11th day and the 11th month of 1918 World War I came to an end. The following spring, farmers plowing fields near the frontlines found new life emerging, including hundreds of red poppies.

The news inspired a Canadian to pen “In Flanders Field.” The paper on which he scribbled his poem was nearly lost but found and preserved. And, two years later, the poppy became the official flower of the American Legion to memorialize those lost.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow between crosses row on row…” she recited.

Susan Blair always attends Memorial Day services in honor of her husband Arnold, a retired lieutenant, and other family members who served in the armed forces. But this year she attended in honor of a friend who had long helped organize services on behalf of the Ketchum American Legion.

 
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A member of the Mountain Home Air Force Base Honor Guard raises the flag from half-mast after the Battlefield Cross and Wreath are placed.
 

“I’m attending this year in honor of Bill Cassell,” she said, referring to a Ketchum resident who survived a plane crash while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany only to pass away from COVID a couple months ago. “I’m here for Bill.”

While there was no military ceremony at the Ketchum Cemetery this year, a hundred people gathered to remember both veterans and community residents who have passed this past year.

The observance started with meditative music and taps and ended with people sharing brief poems and personal stories of loss.

“The setting and weather were exquisite, of course, and precisely at 10 minutes past the hour, the USAF flyover occurred as on Memorial Days past,” said Connie Hoffman. “Many of those who showed up expressed thanks for a feeling of returning to normalcy. And, I think, the fact that it seemed to be more like an impromptu get-together rather than a large structured gathering added to the special nature of the event.”

 
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John Moss donated a ceramic poppy planted at the Tower of London in 2018 to represent 888,246 British Troops who perished in “the war to end all wars.” The poppy is kept in the Hailey Cemetery office and brought out every Memorial Day.
 

MEANWHILE, 2,330 MILES AWAY IN WASHINGTON, D.C…

President Biden warned that democracy itself is in peril both in this country and around the world as he honored the fallen at Memorial Day ceremonies in the nation’s Capitol. Some seek to hobble free elections, a rule of law that applies equally to every citizen and an independent press founded on facts, not propaganda, he said.

“What we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure,” he added.

 

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