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By Deb Patterson
MENTONE — “Memorial Day is always a day to remember, it’s always a weekend to remember. those who gave their lives in defense of our nation, who were killed as we prayed earlier, on land, sea or air,” stated Ken Locke, Salvation Army chaplain, key speaker at the Mentone Memorial Day service. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice. They did not enter the military seeking to loose their life. They entered the military to serve their country, knowing that they may loose their life.”
Mentone’s service was held at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the Mentone Cemetery. Locke, along with David Smythe and Brian Iddles, Bell Museum board members; Emily Gearhart, pastor of Mentone United Methodist Church; Burket Boy Scout Troop 782; Warsaw American Legion Post 49; Ed Rock; Connie Schlag, American Legion Auxiliary and Tippecanoe High School Band all took part in the service.
“Everyone who goes into the military signs on the dotted line and knows at some point you may loose your life In service of your country.,” continued Locke. “They remind you very quickly in basic training that you are nothing more than government property anyway. … But you knew that there was a chance it could happen. So you served because you loved your nation and these men and women who have given their lives … had no idea that they may die somewhere in order for us to enjoy the freedoms that we have today.
“There are also those who brought the scars and pain home from war. Some of those, many of those have passed on. There are many people buried here who have served our nation in time of war and in time of peace. Unfortunately we are living in a time when the suicide rate of veteans is very high, so they also bear the scars of war and also die. We remember them as well.”
Locke shared stories he heard from his father, who served with the 88th Infantry Division, The Blue Devils in Italy. “I listened to many stories from him. In early days, in my younger days, he basically told the funny stories but as he grew older the stories grew more darker and grim as he taught me what it meant to be a combat veteran.” He noted they didn’t talk about PTSD then. The veterans were told to go home, get back to work and keep your mouth shut. “So he carried a lot of things with him in his soul until the day he died.”
Locke shared three important things with those gathered for the service.
“The one thing that he taught me is the people you are serving with are the most important at that moment, especially when you’re in combat. … He told me that the interesting thing … when you are serving in that type of situation, there are no Democrats. There are no Republicans. There are no mid-westerners. There are no city folks. He said at that point it really doesn’t matter. You’re doing what you can to survive to serve together as a cohesive unit and to save each other’s lives if possible and defeat the enemy. That’s basically how simple it is….
“May I suggest to you its time for us in America, it is time for us to become a band of brothers again as well. We need to stop the division that is going on in our country as we on this Memorial Day are taking time to remember. We need to remember our liberty came from blood, sweat and tears from people from all kinds of paths and all kinds of religions and all kinds of backgrounds and its about time we got our act back together in this country and start working together to solve the problems that we have and to continue to secure liberty for the generations to come.”
He also noted his dad never wanted to be called a hero. He reminded Locke that the real heroes never came home. “So today we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, remember that they worked together for the best of what we needed in this world and secured the liberty that we have today.”
The second thing was that those who were wounded or dying would always cry out for their mothers. He said the family is a foundation stone in American society. He spoke of how his father would say they often talked about home and in his letters home, he would talk about how he wished he could eat something his mother cooked or made. He then referenced the Gold Star families and it was the time to honor them and say thank you for the sacrifice they endured in loosing a loved one.
The final thing was that many cried out to God when wounded or dying. Men could also be heard praying at night to get them out of that situation., or to comfort them and take them into eternity. His father was one of those who pleaded to God and made a bargain. It was several years after being discharged before he kept that pledge.
“We need to plead to God for our nation. We need to plead to God, because we are endanger of pushing God out of our society. We need to go back to those things that made us the nation that we are “One nation under God,” said Locke “… realizing the heritage that we have been given has come from a spiritual foundation as well and many men and women on the battle field all these years have trusted God to see them through and some of them lost their lives and then saw God in eternity. We need to remember that on this Memorial Day.
Referring to the son Rock said, “Freedom Isn’t Free,” Locke stated “it comes with a price. It comes with hard work. It comes with sacrifice. It comes with blood, sweat and tears …. because everything we have today … because somebody was willing to go to some hell hole on the other side of the world to fight for freedom and liberty … May we never forget that. That’s what Memorial Day is all about,. It’s remembering . It’s being grateful and its reflecting and asking our creator how I can be a better citizen and how can I continue to make this a great nation that he has blessed us with …”
The ceremony also included David Smythe reading the roll call of deceased veterans. That list included 56 from World War 1,137 from World War II, 50 from Korea, 29 from Vietnam, one from Operation Iraq Freedom and 15 from peace time.