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Memorial service unites Mitchell in remembrance of military members

As American flags, flowers and wreaths decorated the burial sites of the men and women who served in our nation's armed forces, community members of Mitchell gathered in unison on Memorial Day at the Servicemen's Memorial Cemetery to pay homage a...

Rich Hofer delivers an address at the American Legion Cemetery Monday as part of Mitchell's Memorial Day services. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Rich Hofer delivers an address at the American Legion Cemetery Monday as part of Mitchell's Memorial Day services. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

As American flags, flowers and wreaths decorated the burial sites of the men and women who served in our nation's armed forces, community members of Mitchell gathered in unison on Memorial Day at the Servicemen's Memorial Cemetery to pay homage and remember those that fought and died for freedom.

Present and past military members led the memorial service with stories of the significance on what Memorial Day means to them and all Americans.

Following the pledge of allegiance, the Rev. Jerry Stravia, of First United Methodist Church and retired U.S. Army infantry team leader, said a prayer that brought tears to many in attendance.

"We are family, and I've lost battle buddies and some of my family in the Iraq War, but what a blessing each breath really is on this soil," Stravia said. "This is a special day of remembrance to reflect on the blessing I have of standing here today, and I'm standing here today because of the men and women who fought for our freedom."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jay Schreurs presented the memorial address, challenging community members to continue the tradition and remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

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"As I pulled in this morning and saw the Boy Scouts and youth of our neighborhoods out here setting up chairs and handing out brochures, I was reminded that some of these children will sign that dotted line one day, and be willing to give their lives for our freedom in the greatest nation on earth," Schreurs said.

"Because you're taking the time to show your children and grandchildren the true meaning of Memorial Day, the importance of what this day represents will be passed onto to their children forever," he added.

Schreurs shared his story of Memorial Day tradition with his daughter Katie, as they would set up flags in the same spots around the Graceland Cemetery each year.

"Some years it would be raining, and some years it would be cold enough to have to throw a jacket on, but regardless of the weather, we set up those flags and followed it up with a nice breakfast," Schreurs said.

Although Schreurs' daughter has moved on and lives in Aberdeen where she went to college at Northern State University, he said the two of them will never let this special tradition fade.

Following Schreurs' memorial address, the military funeral honor team fired blank cartridges into the air three times, saluting the fallen men and women who served in our nation's military forces. The program also included the Mitchell Municipal Band's music and a moment of silence.

As attendees walked to the Graceland Cemetery after the conclusion of the Servicemen's Memorial Cemetery ceremony, the memorial service proceeded with wreath presentations to fallen veterans.

The only speaker at the memorial service that had not served in the military was Mitchell High School Social Studies Instructor Steve Morgan, who delivered a powerful speech at Graceland Cemetery. In a time where political correctness has sparked division over confederacy monuments and memorials, Morgan reminded everyone in attendance that "we're all patriots to this great nation."

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Morgan recognized the only confederate soldier buried in the Graceland Cemetery: Israel Greene, who moved to South Dakota following the Civil War, which was the largest war fought on American soil.

"The failure to remember and honor these dead servicemen and women can have catastrophic consequences for any nation that refuses to remember its past," Morgan said. "We must remember and thank the men and women who have served our great nation. God bless you all and God bless America."

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