May 31—The names of hundreds of those from Howard County who died in past wars are engraved on the black granite slabs of the Howard County Veterans Memorial. It's those and the many more across the country who died serving their country that were honored Monday morning.
Around 100 people gathered at Veteran's Memorial Park on the city's north east side to take part in the annual Memorial Day ceremony. The crowd was quiet and respectful and the mood solemn as the ceremony's activities progressed.
The event featured prayers from Dennis Chapman, chaplain of the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization; a proclamation from Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore; renditions of the national anthem and "God Bless America" from the Kokomo Men of Note; the playing of taps; the laying of numerous wreaths by Daughter of the American Revolution, Children of the American Revolution, Disabled American Veterans, VFW and more; and a keynote speech from Jerry Paul, local veteran and president of the Howard County Veterans Memorial Corp.
"Our veterans, they're silent on the wall but very boisterous when you begin to really look at them," Chapman said during the ceremony's final prayer. "And what they say to you is 'Love your country. If nothing else, love your country. Let me not have died in vain. Let me not have suffered in vain.'"
In his speech, Paul talked about the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia and how he feels inspired by the Ukrainians and their will to fight to save their young democracy.
"I have never in my lifetime seen people so willing to give up everything in the name of freedom, and that should be an inspiration for us all," he said. "If you look at that every night, and if you even slightly understand that, then you'll finally understand what's behind me (the local name of those lost in wars). There's always a price to pay."
Paul also touched on leaving a legacy. The legacy of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice will be remembered through the monuments that carry their names.
But is it enough, Paul asked.
"They served their country, and now we can continue their legacy by serving our community," Paul said. "You don't have to be a veteran to do that."
Paul then gave a "homework assignment" to the young kids in attendance: close your eyes and walk over to the memorial where the names of the local veteran who died in combat are, put your finger on the wall, walk around and then stop, and whatever name it lands on, look that person up and find everything you can about them and write it down on a piece of paper, and put that paper in a safe place.
"When you retire, and you look at that piece of paper, I want you to reflect back on your legacy," Paul said. "What did you do to make your community a better place? And if your answer is you didn't do anything, you wasted your legacy. They're (veterans who died in combat) depending on us that we don't waste theirs. That's why we have this monument."
Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.