Temperatures in the ’80s, gusty winds and even sprinkling rain showers were not enough to deter the observance of Memorial Day in Sun Prairie. The day began with a short Memorial Day parade that began in the parking lot of the Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School at 220 Kroncke Drive and proceeded down Kroncke to Main and eventually concluding at the Sun Prairie Area Veterans Memorial at the corner of Sunfield Street and South Walker Way.
Mayor John Murray, VFW Commander-Elect Gary Wojtowicz, VFW Ladies Auxiliary Senior Vice President Jeanne Gerg and American Legion Post 333 Commander Dennis Norton were among the speakers who all called for more attention to be paid to veterans and Memorial Day.
Sun Prairie Mayor John Murray was among the speakers at the Memorial Day ceremony May 28 at the Sun Prairie Area Veterans Memorial (photos by Chris Mertes).
“Memorial day, like many other holidays, is filled with symbols,” Murray said. “Some of the most recognized symbols are the American flag, the American eagle, red, white and blue. But the most vivid symbol and in my opinion the most important one – is the veteran.”
The mayor said the children’s TV network Nickelodeon commissioned a study earlier this year that found that by the age of 3, U.S. children recognize an average of 100 brand logos.
“What this means is that more of our children recognize the Golden Arches and what that symbol means than the American Flag and what it stands for,” Murray said, adding that it raises a very important point.
“At some point in the education of our children – we have a responsibility to ensure that they recognize and understand the symbols of our country and the lessons behind them as much or more than other prevalent symbols,” Murray said.
The mayor recalled a high school history teacher named Mr. Kasmer who was a veteran.
“I remember him holding up the class textbook and telling us that we would learn what was in the book – but we would also learn some of the lessons that were not in the book – some of his stories from combat. As a sheltered teen growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin – having a high school history teacher roll up his pant leg to reveal the state of his shattered knee was a bit of a shock,” Murray said.
“In retrospect, I realize that some if this was for effect – Mr. Kasmer was a character – but it got our attention and gave credence to his stories of privation, sacrifice, fear and courage,” Murray said. “His personal stories and unique method of teaching gave real meaning to the word freedom and made the symbols we attach to it more real and more relevant.”
Murray recalled his 2011 remarks when he asked everyone to find appropriate ways of allowing great veterans to tell their stories.
“By allowing these stories to be told, we create those teachable moments that honor their service and impart valuable lessons to current and future generations,” Murray said. “I ask our veterans and their families again this year – keep telling your stories. Keep teaching those lessons that were and still are the foundation for the freedom we enjoy in our country.
“I also ask everyone to keep teaching our children the symbols of that freedom – the most important symbol being the veteran,” Murray said. “When more of our children recognize the American flag and understand what it stands for – we will have recognized the great service of our veterans and more fully honored their legacy of freedom and liberty.”
VFW Post 9362 Commander-elect Gary Wojtowicz delivered Memorial Day remarks at the Sun Prairie Area Veteran Memorial.
Wojtowicz pointed out the ceremony pays tribute to 24 Sun Prairie service members who died in military service to the United States. He recalled the history of Memorial Day, which began as Decoration Day to remember the soldiers who died in the Civil War and eventually came to be what we know as Memorial Day today – a time to remember fallen heroes.
“These are the real heroes of our society – they have given us the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the freedom to organize and demonstrate, the freedom to own a business, the freedom to vote, the freedom to choose a career and countless other freedoms we enjoy today,” Wojtowicz added. “These veterans demonstrated and lived by the values of courage, honor, duty, commitment and sacrifice . . .”
The commander-elect outlined ways to remember the heroes: Visiting the graves, decorating with flowers and flying the flag. He called upon the remaining, living veterans to never forget the sacrifices of fallen comrades. “We must never forget,” Wojtowicz concluded.
American Legion Post 333 Commander Dennis Norton.
Norton recalled the sacrifices made by two Marines who literally gave their lives protecting their comrades from a truck filled with explosives in Iraq. “We must honor our fallen . . . the lives that they saved are their legacy,” Norton said, adding that their legacy is honoring the values of God, country and family.
“By remaining true to these principles, we honor their sacrifice,” Norton said.
“Observances like this are happening all across America – but there can never be too many of them. As the unofficial beginning of summer [we must remember] it’s not about vacation, it’s not about picnics, auto races or barbecues” but about remembering the fallen heroes. Norton said many of them would want their families taken care of – which is ironic, because families remember the loss of their beloved family member every day.
He also called the crowd’s attention to a new bench, donated through donations as well as the Post 333, Sons of the American Legion Unit 333 and the Legion Auxiliary Unit 333, that now sits installed at the Sun Prairie Area Veteran’s Memorial.
Jeanne Gerg, vice president of VFW Post 9362 Ladies Auxiliary, called for Sun Prairie residents to fly flags throughout the year to honor the sacrifices of those who died during military service to the United States (photo by Steve Polishinski).
Gerg called for Sun Prairie to become the Flags of Freedom city, with every home flying an American flag as a symbol to celebrate freedom and the sacrifices of veterans everywhere.