‘We must always remember the fallen’; Memorial Day ceremony recalls those who served in combat

ST. GEORGE — The rain stopped long enough Monday morning for hundreds of Southern Utah residents to remember those lost during the eighth annual SunRiver Memorial Day ceremony.

Col. David Waters, of the U.S. Marine Corps, speaks at the SunRiver Memorial Day ceremony in St. George, Utah, May 27, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

While temperatures were cooler than normal for late May, those in attendance still listened attentively to this year’s speaker, Col. David Waters of the U.S. Marine Corps, as he urged them to remember that Memorial Day is not just a three-day weekend or a day off for federal workers.

“Some of us, like those here today, remember the real purpose is to honor those who served in the military and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Waters, who retired in 1987 after 33 years in the Marine Corps. “It’s about honoring those who gave their all in our country’s wars.”

Waters expressed the significance of Memorial Day during his speech by citing powerful moments in history, including the loss of 2,500 American troops during the first day of the invasion of Normandy in 1944 and the loss of more than 405,000 Americans during World War II.

“The observation of the deaths of our nation’s heroes dates back to 1866 right after the Civil War at Waterloo, New York,” he said.

For those who’ve served in combat, Waters said, they often turn their thoughts on Memorial Day to the memories of friends they lost in battle. For Waters, something he said will live with him for the rest of his life is when he approved a flight mission for a young lieutenant — not knowing it would be his last flight. After the aircraft was in the air, a ground unit was ambushed, and the pilot was diverted to assist, ultimately ending in the pilot’s death.

“I went to the runway, arriving just in time for the crash crew man to pull the lieutenant out of the cockpit and hand him down to me,” he said. “He was dead. I was devastated.”

While Memorial Day can often bring painful memories, Waters said the nation”must always remember the fallen.”

A wreath is presented for the fallen during the 2019 SunRiver Memorial Day ceremony in St. George, Utah, May 27, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

In addition to Waters’ speech, musical numbers were performed by Melissa and Brodie Perry, and a $1,500 check from Spilsbury Mortuary was presented to the Color Country Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution, which was matched by Wreaths Across America.

The donation will allow for 200 wreaths to be placed on veteran graves in December.

Read more: Gone but never forgotten; American heroes honored in ‘Wreaths Across America’ ceremonies

To close the ceremony, a wreath was presented to honor the fallen, as well as a 21-gun salute and playing of taps. Residents then placed miniature American flags between commemorative bricks at the SunRiver Veterans Honor Park.

“We’re now at 667 honor bricks here at the park,” said Tom Cover, a resident of SunRiver and retired Marine.

Participating groups in this year’s service included American Legion Post 142, Knights of Columbus, Marine Corps League Detachment 1270, Patriot Guard Riders of Southern Utah, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 961, members of the Dixie High School ROTC and Daughters of the American Revolution. Officers from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the St. George Police Department were also present, as well as a crew St. George Fire.

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Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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