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Ceremonies honor veterans

Chief Warrant Officer Ken Schoenfelder, of Mitchell, gives the memorial address during the Memorial Day Celebration at the Servicemen’s Memorial Cemetery in Mitchell Monday morning. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Mitchell — More than 200 people gathered Monday morning at the Servicemen’s Memorial Cemetery in Mitchell to honor men and women in the Armed Forces who fought and died for the United States.

The memorial address was delivered by Chief Warrant Officer Ken Schoenfelder, who is currently stationed with the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Sioux Falls.

He spoke about the history of Memorial Day, which started as Decoration Day after the Civil War, and the importance of remembering not only those who have died, but also those are “forever altered due to either physical or emotional wounds of war,” Schoenfelder said.

“Memorial Day then, as it is today, was a way to help with the healing and process of losing a loved one, along with honoring their sacrifice to our nation's cause and our freedom,” he said.

The Mitchell resident, who has served 33 years and was deployed to Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, said he had been hoping for the opportunity to give the address. He said it was a “tremendous honor” when the American Legion Post 18 offered him the featured speaker role.

Schoenfelder said 35 South Dakotans have been killed in the ongoing global war on terror. Eight were members of the South Dakota National Guard. He specifically mentioned Staff Sgt. Gregory A. Wagner, of Mitchell, who was killed May 8, 2006, by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq. Schoenfelder said he and Wagner served together for 10 years in the 665th Maintenance Company in Mitchell.

“It was an empty day in my life, as it was for many others, when the news came that he lost his life,” he said.  

The Mitchell Municipal Band provided music during the ceremony. Visitors followed the Military Funeral Honor Team from the Serviceman’s Cemetery to Graceland Cemetery, the Navy Lagoon and American Legion Cemetery for shorter services.

J.P. Skelly, news director at KORN and KQRN radio stations, spoke during the service at the American Legion Cemetery.