By Blair Baumgartner
NORTH WEBSTER — Memorial Day is a sacred time to remember all of those who gave their lives so we can live in a free country.
For the third year, Taps Across the Water at Dusk ceremonies were performed in North Webster, Syracuse and many locations across the country.
The North Webster ceremony was led by North Webster American Legion Post 253. The Syracuse ceremony was led by Chautauqua-Wawasee and Syracuse American Legion Post 223.
The ceremonies were “a Memorial Day tribute to honor veterans and those who have died in the performance of their duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces.”
Deputy District Director for Congressman Jim Banks, Landon Porter said, “I am happy that Congressman Banks allowed me to represent him here tonight. This is a beautiful event. The event is a great way to remember what Memorial Day is all about.”
Though Congressman Banks was unable to attend the ceremony in North Webster, Porter said that Banks continues to fight for veterans and will continue to be a leading voice in Washington, D.C. in support of veterans and for all those who gave their lives for our freedom.
North Webster American Legion Post 253 commander and US Air Force veteran Larry Burkhart said, “Think of all those loved ones and the men and women we’ve served with that we’ve lost. Honor the memory of those who have given their lives in service of our country. Salute our departed comrades.”
Burkhart said, “Memorial Day is not for the veterans that are living. It’s for veterans who gave their lives fighting for our freedom. Everything we do, we do it in honor of those who have passed.”
Matt Murdock, who is part of Taps for Veterans said, “Jari Villanueva started Taps for Veterans in 2020. Three years ago, I played the trumpet by myself. The following year, we had 10 trumpet players. We started recruiting trumpet players from schools and community bands. This year we have 30-40 trumpet players. We are still trying to get as many people as possible to volunteer.”
Chautauqua-Wawasee volunteer Mark Knecht, who helped lead the Taps for Veterans ceremony in Syracuse said, “We had a really good turnout of musicians this year. This year we have a record number of musicians. We get so many compliments. It’s very meaningful to people.”
American Legion Post 223 service officer and US Marine and Army veteran Chris Longenbaugh said, “This is a day that we honor those who have given their lives. We honor all veterans who have passed; each individual person.” Longenbaugh’s twin brother, current finance officer Curtis Longenbaugh said, “I echo my brother’s words.”
At approximately 9:09 p.m., US Marine veteran Todd Eby piloted a 1957 T-34B aircraft over Lake Papakeechie, Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake.
The flyover was immediately followed by trumpet players playing “Taps” on piers across Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake.
North Webster American Legion Post 253 conducted a Memorial Day parade at 10:45 a.m., Monday, May 29, in downtown North Webster. The parade concluded at the cemetery for a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony.
Burkhart said, “I was late so I could pick up a veteran to bring to the ceremony. On this day, we deepen our reverence for our departed friends and comrades.”
American Legion Post 253 Chaplain Philip Smith prayed, “Thank you Lord for the opportunity to honor our veterans on Memorial Day who gave the supreme sacrifice so we can be free.”
The Wawasee Middle School band played “The Star Spangled Banner.” Russ Chandler sang “I’m Proud To Be An American” by Lee Greenwood.
Burkhart said, “I had two uncles that I never met. One died at ‘The Battle of the Bulge.’ The battle was unwinnable but they never stopped fighting.”