Remembering heroes

Cars parked for blocks along every street in the area of Rosehill Memorial Park on Monday to take in the Memorial Day ceremonies there. According to master of ceremonies Wayne Paulson, the turnout to the 10:30 a.m. event was among the largest in his memory.

Lawn chairs brought from home lined the grass surrounding the veteran’s burial section of the park and a seemingly endless parade of motorcycles led by Chad Sherven of the Minot-based I II IV Motorcycle Club with a large American flag trailing his bike streamed up the road to park en masse along the roadway going down the veteran’s section.

Across the gravesites from that road, with small American flags waving from between each veteran’s headstone, was the brick podium fronted with a plaque that reads “Rosehill Cemetery 1985 V.F.W. Post 753.”

It’s from there that Paulson began the ceremonies and introduced the advancement of colors.

The color guard, composed of Minot veteran organizations and auxiliaries and the Minot Air Force Base Honor Guard, began its march from the main road along a winding path in front of the spectators toward that road on the other side of veteran’s section.

There, the guard decamped into three separate units, with a five-man rifle team made up of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 753 men to give the rifle salute before Steve Veikley plays Taps from his bugle.

Before that, though, was the opening prayer from Pastor Scott Mehlhoff of the Southside Nazarene Church in Minot.

“There’s no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend,” he said. “Help us this morning to give tribute, respect, remembrance and honor to the gallant men and women of our armed forces who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their very lives. For they gave their lives for us so that we could remain free. For they carried themselves as soldiers and they did it with God’s grace.

“May God bless their souls and protect those soldiers who now stand in harm’s way. We ask that you would comfort those parents who gave their very precious son or daughter and for those who gave a spouse, the love of their life. God be with all of the children of our deceased soldiers. Protect and love them as only a heavenly father can do.”

The audience then recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag before an address from former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, a medal of honor recipient.

“I believe this is a first for the Minot community,” Paulson said, introducing Romesha. “We have had some distinguished military members speak to us in the past but I think this is the first time we have ever had a recipient of the Medal of Honor as our speaker.”

Voice quivering a little, Romesha said “I’m a simple guy. I’m Clint. I was an American soldier, just like so many others. When I put this little blue ribbon of silk around my neck, this isn’t for me. It’s for all of them.”

“Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation. They stand in silence and remembrance of those who were loved and in return loved their countrymen so much they gave their lives,” he said. “Each of these resting heroes have their own story to tell and I wish I could hear them all. I lost eight in Afghanistan. Each one of those had their own story to tell. They had their own lives, their own hopes and dreams for the future. Those of you in the audience that have participated in combat know that these types of experiences draw you close, and even closer to your battle buddies. They make you a family.”

A “strewing of the flowers” ceremony was held earlier that morning, at 8 a.m., at the Veteran’s Memorial Walkway, formerly the Eighth Street Northwest bridge. The ceremony was a symbolic remembrance of soldiers and sailors lost at sea. Ashy remnants of unserviceable flags burned at American Legion ceremonies earlier this year were also scattered during the ceremony.

Peggy Headrick, the president of the ladies auxiliary of VFW Post 753 led the strewing of the flowers at the earlier event and then laid the ceremonial wreath in front of the memorial at the Rosehill ceremony toward the end just before the rifle salute and taps was played.

“I’m proud that we truly value the sacrifice of our fallen and I’m confident that no one appreciates military service like North Dakotans do,” Romesha, a California native, had said in his speech about his adopted home.

“I believe that with military service we gain a greater appreciation for our nation’s national anthem, we feel a deep pride in watching our flag being raised and you get choked up when you listen to the sombering notes of ‘Taps.’ Whether we are civilians, veterans or still serving in uniform, Memorial Day gives us all the opportunity to take actions in ways that honor the sacrifice of those who have died so we might live, free and proud.”