MERRILLVILLE — More than one hundred residents gathered at Calumet Park Cemetery Sunday to honor the men and women of the military who found final respite after sacrifice and service to the nation.
American flags fluttering in the mid-afternoon sun marked the graves of the veterans buried at the cemetery as the Merrillville High School band performed patriotic songs.
Northern Vice Commander Peter Van Woerden of The American Legion, Department of Indiana, said volunteers spent several days decorating the site of the 40th annual memorial service, hosted by The American Legion First District.
He said he remembered on this occasion two veterans who died in combat – Master Gunnery Sgt. Gerald W. Fiegle, a 22-year Marine killed in Vietnam, and his wife's uncle, William Comer, who was killed in the Philippines.
Speakers at the service included several officials from The American Legion, as well as U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and Pastor Jim Drummond of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Hebron.
Visclosky told the crowd it was important to not only honor the fallen veterans, but also the 52,000 service members wounded in the War on Terror and the 2.1 million who continue to serve our nation.
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Drummond said he served four tours of duty as a Marine in Vietnam, and he would do it again “in a heartbeat” if he was called to duty, albeit his response would be slower given his age.
Legion members and Visclosky together placed wreaths wrapped in red, white and blue bunting before a monument that read: “Here we enshrine forever the memory of those who served our country.”
Andrea Ward, a student at Merrillville High School, sang a song about lost friends as the crowd observed the occasion.
Pam Marley, of Whiting, said she and her brother have attended the memorial service at Calumet Park Cemetery since the death in 2014 of their father, Army Pfc. Andrew Bencur Sr.
“It's about honoring him and his sacrifice,” Marley said.