CROWN POINT — Veterans and others gathered Monday at Historic Maplewood Cemetery to remember fallen soldiers, sailors and Marines.
“When you’re tapped to serve your country, you become property of the U.S. government,” said American Legion 1st District Commander Dan Mills. “You become a thing. You’re expendable.”
“Today is a reflection upon those who came before us,” he said. Because of them, “freedom and liberty are ours to share with the next generation.”
Mayor David Uran stressed the meaning of the holiday. “Memorial Day is a time to reconnect with its history and core values,” he said. “Reflection is part of learning and thinking.”
“Memorial Day captures the significance, the very essence” of the sacrifice made by others in service to the country, Uran said. “The American way of life is not cheap.”
American Legion Post 20 members laid wreaths in honor of fallen comrades. A Crown Point student played taps. Participants sang “God Bless America” and said the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We’re proud of our flag because it stands for the American people who have given their lives to protect what we love today,” Uran said.
Lake Superior Court Judge Julie Cantrell, who runs the county’s veterans court, told of a Vietnam War veteran making the case for service-related strife that would qualify him for that court. She looked at his DDR-214 discharge papers and saw that he was a dental assistant. What was so stressful about that, she asked him.
The veteran told him he helped identify deceased troops based on dental records and helped put faces back together. He qualified, she realized.
“There’s no two veterans who need the same kind of support,” Cantrell said.
Veterans can suffer post-traumatic stress disorder that can lead to self-medication (drug and alcohol abuse) and suicide. Not until she began working with veterans on a close, personal basis did she really realize what they went through.
“Give thanks, hugs and handshakes to our veterans,” Uran said.
Many veterans were in the audience.
Henry Maday Jr., of Cedar Lake, told of his service in Vietnam. His Army tent was on a concrete slab. He had an air mattress, but it was punctured. He adjusted to sleeping on the hard floor, but the artillery shells flying overhead would lift him off the floor as they went overhead.
In one action, he said, half of the 421 troops were killed or wounded. He was one of the lucky ones.
“I’m glad I did what I did and I came out OK,” Maday said.
Gil Stiener, of Crown Point, had a brother killed in World War II by a Japanese kamikaze pilot. Stiener’s brother was a gunner on the USS Nashville when the plane crashed into the ship.
“I come every year,” Stiener said.
Tim Aeschliman, of Lowell, served in the Army and was stationed in West Germany during the Cold War. He knows the importance of the holiday. “It reminds us of all the lives that we lost. These guys never came home,” he said.
U.S. Navy Commander David Stanton (retired), of Lafayette, also is a perennial face at Maplewood Memorial Cemetery on Memorial Day. The only eight times he missed were the years he was on active duty. Even last year, when there was no ceremony because of the pandemic, Stanton went to Maplewood to salute the flag and the fallen troops.
Stanton has been to 12 other countries. The United States is the greatest nation ever, he said.
“Sad to say, America is forgetting what brought us here,” he said.