MENTONE — Sunny skies and stifling, warm temperatures provided the backdrop at the Mentone Cemetery Sunday afternoon for the town’s ceremony honoring the country’s war dead.
Following an introduction by Town Council Member Tim Croy, the invocation by Pastor Jason Rice and music by both the Tippecanoe Valley High School band and vocalist Ed Rock, Vietnam Veteran Jerry Hogan spoke to the audience about the true meaning of the holiday and how he learned the value of American freedom from an unlikely source more than four decades ago in Southeast Asia.
“Thank you America, thank you for our freedom,” said Hogan to the crowd assembled just a few feet from the grave of town founder Albert Tucker. “I first heard these words on the evening of April 29, 1975. They were spoken to me by a little Vietnamese lady on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Vancouver off the coast of Saigon just as the evacuation of Saigon was about to kick into high gear.”
Hogan, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., said the holiday is a time to recall the contributions of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and stressed that the importance of this is often not lost on the meek who seek the benefits of such selfless gifts.
“We’re here to memorialize the more than 1,350,000 American service members who died in all our wars to ensure the freedoms that an anonymous Vietnamese woman recognized and reminded me on that eventful evening 43 years ago,” Hogan said.
The roll call of deceased veterans was called by Brian Iddles and Connie Slag, secretary of the Warsaw American Legion Auxiliary and American Legion Post 49 delivered a 21-gun salute.
Taps was played by Tippecanoe Valley trumpet player Andrew Burke.