Rev. Maryann Reimund recalled the story of a father-to-be insisting that he and his wife name their child before he left to serve his country. The discussion was important to him, she said, because the young man somehow knew he wouldn’t return from duty alive.
Rev. Reimund, pastor of The Gathering in the Garage of Wauseon, shared the story to a somber crowd as featured speaker at the annual Memorial Day ceremony held Monday in Wauseon Union Cemetery. Amidst the traditional parade to the cemetery, the waving of flags by spectators, and rousing versions of musical military themes by the Wauseon High School band, Rev. Reimund brought home the true meaning of the holiday.
“Unfortunately, to so many it simply means a day off work, a cookout with a family or even a parade. But I’m here to tell you that Memorial Day means so much more,” she said. “Memorial Day is the day that has been set aside to remember – remembering those whose lives have been lost while defending our freedom for this wonderful country of which we live in…We need to remember our soldiers not just today but everyday – soldiers who fought and died on our behalf.”
Mike Meuth, a member of the local VFW and American Legion posts and a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1965-66, led the event this year following the death last November of Judge James Barber, who had served as master of ceremonies for 25 years.
“Through his dedication to his family, to his church, to his friends, to the community, to the American Legion, and to all of those he has served, he deserves special recognition,” Meuth said.
Judge Barber’s wife, Sandy, children, and other family members attended the ceremony. Sandy Barber said the Memorial Day celebration was always special to her husband, who is buried in Wauseon Union Cemetery among 971 other veterans.
“He loved his country, he loved his community. Veterans are very special to all of us, and each one served with complete confidence in their heart that they were doing something for their country. And I’m just so pleased to be here this morning and see this nice crowd that we have supporting our veterans,” she said.
The ceremony proceeded with the Wauseon High School Chorale’s rendition of “In Flanders Field” and readings of “Flander’s Field” and “The Gettysburg Address” by WHS seniors Elizabeth Baker and Andrew Eberle, respectively. Names of local veterans who died over the past year were read, each accompanied by the ringing of a bell.
“We lost a lot of good people this last year; we have a lot of good people left to pick up where they were,” Meuth said afterward.
Citing the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their lives defending America in battle since the Civil War, Rev. Reimund noted her desire to serve following the terrorist attacks of 9-11, and being told she was too old. “Yet that has never caused my love for those of you who have fought and died for this country to waver. In fact, if anything, my love for you and my respect for each of you has deepened,” she said.
Rev. Reimund said those defending American freedom “were willing to do whatever it took to defend and protect. They understood to the very core what it meant to say ‘One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ We are free to pray, we are free to worship, we are free to speak, and we are free to assemble, and we are free to vote, thanks to them.”
And she reminded spectators: “War is ugly in so many ways. It not only takes the lives of the ones we love but it can destroy the ones who do come back. They have seen things that they will never, ever be able to unsee. They have war injuries that are not visible to us, and yet they must live with those injuries everyday. And yet, we, as Americans, seem to overlook those heroes.”
Rev. Reimund also encouraged city residents to explore the historical landmarks around them to learn more about what their family members and neighbors sacrificed while serving their country.
The Memorial Day ceremony closed with a presentation of memorial wreaths, a 21-gun salute by the Fulton County Honor Guard, and the playing of “Taps” by WHS Marching Band members Lance Rupp and Brayden Everly.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.