In rained on their parade, but people came out to honor them anyway.
It also rained on most of the ceremony at Traxler Park, but more than 100 people stayed for the speeches and the 21-gun salute.
Monday’s Memorial Day events were designed to pay tribute to those who died for their country, but many at the Traxler Park ceremonies were honored to be in the presence of the living veterans and those whose names are inscribed on bricks in the walkway in front of the memorial.
Those bricks honored such men as Wayne T. Buggs, who survived the Bataan Death March; Wallace E. “Smitty” Smith, who served in the U.S. Navy and was killed when a kamikaze pilot hit his ship during the Battle of Okinawa; John J. Fiedler, who served on the USS Forrestal and died during a fire aboard the ship in 1967; and Robert A. McCartney, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
In his speech, Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson said the crowd gathered at the memorial to make sure the names of those who served will never be forgotten.
“Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Verdun, Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Normandy, Incheon, Khe Sanh, Baghdad, Tora Bora—just the words make the hair on the backs of our necks stand up and raise a lump in our throats,” Knudson said. “In names like these and many others, we find the clearest indefinable meaning of words like courage, honor and duty.”
Those who died fighting for their county embody the highest ideals of Americans, Knudson said.
“Freedom, righteousness, moral courage, selfless devotion to a cause, glory, strength, toughness, vigilance, loyalty, commitment, integrity, perseverance and love—let these always be the legacy of the fallen and let these be the principles that we strive for as heir of that legacy,” Knudson said.
He also encouraged veterans to reach out to each other in times of need. The “guidance of someone who has been there can be incredibly valuable,” he said.
Those who served can show us what we can be as a country, Knudson said.
“We owe the military for their reminder that we are all Americans, and when we put aside our differences and stand together, we are unstoppable,” Knudson said.
As part of the event, folded flags were placed in front of a display of boots and rifles, each one representing soldiers lost in a specific war.
Boy Scout Ben Emerson, 11, whose flag represented those lost in World War I, seemed to understand the gravitas of the occasion.
Placing the flag was “a high honor,” Emerson said after the ceremony.
“It’s not something a lot of people get to do,” Emerson said.