ELMWOOD – Elmwood Cemetery served as a place of remembrance on Monday for scores of people who attended Memorial Day services there.
A large crowd gathered at the final resting place of dozens of American veterans for the annual Elmwood Memorial Day ceremony. The 45-minute service featured multiple speakers, musical tributes and a gun salute. American Legion Post 247 and Sons of American Legion Squadron 247 sponsored the event.
United States Congressman Jeff Fortenberry delivered the keynote address for the Memorial Day service. He began his remarks by sharing several accounts of veterans who had either risked or sacrificed their lives to help others in times of crisis. He said it was important for Americans of all ages to continue to acknowledge those actions.
“We must remember,” Fortenberry said. “We must retell the stories.”
Fortenberry then shared his disappointment with the current political and financial climate in both Washington, D.C., and America at large. He said an unhealthy influence of money and power in politics and the competing worldviews of various political parties had led to division in the country. Fortenberry then said he was optimistic the nation would be able to overcome these challenges.
“In this time of struggle and division about the heart and notion of our nation, and what it means to be America, perhaps there is a silver lining,” Fortenberry said. “On a deeper level, the vehement animosity across our country could point ironically to something good. Our inability to rally around big and meaningful ideas, reflecting longstanding cultural and philosophical divides, and the seemingly intractable hostility that you see repeated every day, actually might signal a desire for resolution. After all, if no one cared, our situation would actually be worse. And there is plenty of evidence that we do care.”
Fortenberry said Memorial Day services such as the one in Elmwood showed that Americans were willing to place fairness, bravery, self-determination and the rule of law above their political differences. He said that provided a large ray of hope for the future.
Two retired veterans began the morning’s ceremony. Retired Staff Sergeant Tom Rase of Murdock started the event by raising the American flag for the crowd. Rase was a member of the Nebraska Army National Guard in Lincoln for 36 years.
James F. Miller then sang the national anthem near the flag. Miller has been a member of American Legion Post 247 in Elmwood for 54 years. Master of Ceremonies Jeff Johnston told the audience afterward that Miller wanted to sing the national anthem before turning 90 years old.
Boys State representatives Payton Frahm and Riley Backemeyer each presented speeches to the audience. Frahm delivered a reading of General Logan’s Order Number 11 and Backemeyer delivered a reading of the Gettysburg Address. Both students finished their junior years at Elmwood-Murdock in May.
Elmwood-Murdock Class of 2017 graduate Isaiah Kluver showcased his vocal talents by singing “God Bless America” for the crowd. Nebraska State Senator Robert Clements played “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on his trumpet, and Clements and Bruce Pratt played an echoing of “Taps” near the end of the ceremony.
American Legion Post 247 Commander Bonnie Brewer honored four members who had passed away during the previous year. She told the crowd that Glenn Miller, Merlin “Pete” Peterson, Lorens Ropers and Hilton Rogers had all filled important roles in the community. Miller (69 years), Peterson (60), Ropers (51) and Rogers (50) had all been members of Post 247 for many decades.
The ceremony took place on a site where more than 175 veterans have been laid to rest. Elmwood Cemetery includes gravesites of veterans from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War.