Wednesday, May 31, 2017
“They gave their tomorrows so we could have todays” *
(See photos next posting)
An overflow crowd gathered to remember and honor those that fought and have died for the freedoms we experience today. Colors of red, white, and blue dominated the community Memorial Day service: in people’s clothing and accessories, in the Quilts of Valor draped over the backs of the pews, and of course, the display of the flag of the United States of America.
Ellen Graf shared information about the Quilts of Valor reporting that the practice began in 2003 by Catherine Roberts who spearheaded a group to make a quality quilt for her son deployed in Iraq. That began a movement that spread to quilters across the country. Here was a way of expressing appreciation and comfort to those touched by war for their service, sacrifice, and valor. This year the Island quilters made 13 quilts for presentation.
American Legion Gislason-Richter Post #402 Post Commander, Bill Nauta, welcomed everyone and led the Pledge of Allegiance and several patriotic songs. Donna Briesemeister accompanied on the piano. Pastor Rick Smith gave the invocation.
Each year Washington Island High School students submit essays on a subject determined by the American Legion members. The question was what national goals are most important at this time in our country. The essays are submitted without names and are chosen by American Legion members. This year’s essay winners were Karoline Jordan, Kyra Lux, and Brett Mohn. Karoline spoke about the necessity to join with other countries to defeat and stop ISIS. Kyra noted the vital role of education. Brett spoke about the importance of securing our borders.
Colonel Ron Rusing (retired from the U.S. Air Force) gave the Memorial Day Address. He was dressed in his highly decorated uniform. He had served in combat and been stationed in various parts of the world during his tenure. He earned and was awarded many medals. Ron and his wife, Joyce, had made 21 moves in 28 years. He pointed out two veterans in attendance with great appreciation. He was touched each year by Jake Ellefson who annually read the names of departed service men and women at the Island cemetery. He also gave a salute to Al Thiele who had risen to Master Chief of Coast Guard, the highest enlisting ranking. He gave special thanks to his wife, and Al’s wife, Nancy. The support of a spouse is critical for those serving in the military.
Ron shared several interesting incidences that happened during his time in the service. He explained how his call sign and name was Rat1. (Yes, it involved a real rat!) Another story involved a parade to welcome a visit from the English Prime Minister during Nixon’s presidency. Four individuals had slipped in with parade entries, without approval, depicting the war of independence from England. They looked battered, bloody, and were limping. Ron shared that someone leaned forward to explain to the Prime Minister, “when you win you never let them forget”.
Ron mentioned another incident that involved a lineup of the newly produced Black Hawk helicopters. Lined up with them were the two prop air lifter helicopters. When a small rear prop malfunctioned on one of the air lifter helicopter, parts of it flew outward. A guard thought it was an attack and began shooting, peppering the new line of Black Hawks with holes. Ron shared additional memories and concluded with an emotional statement that he had loved life serving in the military.
The Color Guard and Rifle Squad marched from Bethel Church to the cemetery. A wreath was placed at the flag pole by Nancy and Al Thiele’s grandsons dressed in their Eagle Scout uniforms. A chair was provided for veteran 91 year old Jake Ellefson and he read the names of departed comrades. The Rifle Squad gave the Salute followed by Taps played on trumpet by Leo Derrico. Michael Gillespie and Emmett Woods played Amazing Grace on their bagpipes. All walked from the cemetery down to Schoolhouse Beach to repeat the tribute, placing a wreath in the water in honor of those who died at sea. Thanks to Paula McDonald for making and providing the wreaths each year.
Blue sky and sunshine joined to provide a lovely day for the outdoor portions of the service. Soon after the skies turned gray and there was rain off and on for the rest of the day.
* John Maxwell Edmonds was recorded as saying: "When you go home tell them of us and say: for your tomorrow we gave our today". It later was changed to the following: “They gave their tomorrows so we could have todays”.