Jun. 1—After Monday's Memorial Day ceremony at Highland Lawn Cemetery, David M. Lewis spent some time walking past veterans' graves and thinking about the sacrifices of those who died while serving their country.
"It makes me appreciate what they have done for us when I walk around here and gaze at all the monuments," said the U.S. Army veteran, who spent 13 months in Vietnam.
Those veterans he honored made the ultimate sacrifice "so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have," Lewis said. "I know we have a lot of problems in this old world today, but it's still the best country in the world to live in. And until you leave it, you can't appreciate that."
About 15 years ago, he went to Haiti on a mission trip. "When you see how other countries survive and live and what they go through, it makes you appreciate what we have here," he said.
Lewis attends the program at Highland Lawn each Memorial Day.
Cliff Stephens, commander of Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346, served as emcee for the program, which has participation from several Vigo County veterans organizations.
The program included laying of wreaths by different veterans groups, a gun salute and Taps. It did not take place last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's a great honor to be able to recognize our fallen people and also to recognize our present-day veterans," Stephens said. "We do it for all those who put their time in for God, country and family."
Mayor Duke Bennett, who spoke at the ceremony, said that on Memorial Day, "There is really nothing more important than gathering and remembering those we've lost" who died while serving and protecting their country.
He thanked those veterans in attendance and paid tribute to the fallen and their families.
"So many went off to war and never made it back home, right here from our own community," the mayor said. "They stepped up to the plate and faced that horrible ending to their lives."
On Memorial Day, it's important to gather, remember and say thanks.
Those sacrifices made by men and women in the military "allow us to gather freely just like we are here today," Bennett said. "War is awful. It just is. But it's part of our life and if we didn't have the men and women that stand up for us, who knows what we would look like today as a country."
At the end of the program, Stephens, a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, thanked those who attended.
"Don't forget us, because all of us paid a hell of a price one way or another, just so everybody could have their freedom. I hope the younger generation understands that today," Stephens said.
Among those attending were Ron and Donna Thompson of Terre Haute. Ron Thompson, a Marine Corps veteran, served two tours in Vietnam.
"We've been coming out here for at least 20 years. It's a good thing to honor veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day," he said. After COVID canceled the program last year, "It's good that it's going again."
Alan Henneman and his wife, Tami, brought their grandson and nephew. While Henneman didn't serve in the military, he believes "we always need to come out and honor our fallen veterans. It's important to us. It's important to teach our grandchildren," he said.
Richard Kelley, an army veteran who served in Vietnam, attended the ceremony "for the people that died who never came home ... It's important to me to be here for them."
At one point during the ceremony, he rendered a salute as Taps was played.
Kelley said it was his first time to attend the program.
"Sometimes I don't want to come," he said. It brings back memories. "Our generation of people who went to Vietnam were scorned. I've always regretted that the people did that to us. "
Kelley recognizes that people today do show appreciation and respect for those in the military. "But to be honest with you, it's too late for me. That's the way I feel about it. But I appreciate what they do now," he said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.