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April 23, 2024

Memorial Day Ceremony honors sacrifice, loss



AT CEREMONY — Above, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 84 Commander Bill Johnson welcomed the crowd to the 2023 Memorial Day Ceremony at the DAV/Veterans Committee Building on Carrigan Road May 29. Johnson served as emcee for the event.


After a period of morning rain, precipitation ceased in time for the outdoor Alexander County Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, May 29, at the Veterans Committee Building on Carrigan Road.
Bill Johnson, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 84 Commander, opened the event by welcoming the crowd of about 100 persons, including fellow veterans, friends, families, and local residents.

Presentation of the colors was done by ACHS Naval Junior ROTC Cadets. Veterans group post colors were presented by the post commanders of DAV, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Legion. The opening prayer was led by VFW Chaplain Gary Sprinkle, followed by Johnson leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

Johnson read the names of veterans who died since last Memorial Day, an annual tradition, while US Navy veteran Dale Chapman rang a bell after each name was called.

Lt. Col. Ginger Annas, USAF Retired, and Gold Star mother Diane Alberts placed a wreath in honor of those lost in service.

The Veterans Committee Honor Guard performed a 21 Gun Salute and “Taps” to honor veterans lost in service.

First guest speaker was US Navy (retired) Capt. Mark W. Kleinhenz, ACHS NJRTOC Commander. He related an occasion in which he and his shipmates almost became casualties of war.

“As a member of the Armed Forces, you sign a blank check,” Kleinhenz said. “You never know when that check is going to get cashed but it is not up to you. It is not up to the enemy. It is up to our Lord. For me, it was a regular day in our battle rhythm, when I was deployed in Iraq in 2006, serving with my shipmates in Multinational Forces Iraq. We were about to head to lunch when we smelled smoke in the office. Fire had started in the colonel’s office. It was 11:45 in the morning. We saw flames leaping up the side of his office cube and immediately began beating them back with blankets from the couch that was in the front office area where we spent our evenings together. We successfully put out the flames and stopped the building from catching fire. Ironically, there was a fire extinguisher behind the colonel’s door but in the heat of it all, it ultimately did not matter. We saw it after we put out the flames. He had a hand it it. What if that had been at 11:45 at night? We all slept in the same building that we worked in. There was only one entrance to that building. There were bars on all the windows. Fire would have spread from the east side of the building to the west side, where we all slept. There were no fire detectors. The fire would have blocked us in the building and five of us would have perished in the fire, because there would have been no way for us to get out. We would not have died by a bullet or mortar, but we would have been a casualty, nonetheless. The point is, there’s no doubt in my mind the Lord had a hand in saving me and the rest of us in that unit.

“Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to ensuring all of those who serve are honored, because you never know when your time is up, when that check will be cashed, or when the Lord will call us home. He was not ready to take me home and, for that, I am extremely thankful,” said Kleinhenz.

US NAVY CAPTAIN SPEAKS — Above, Capt. Mark W. Kleinhenz, US Navy Retired, who serves as Commander of the ACHS Navy Junior ROTC, was first guest speaker on Memorial Day.

He explained the U.S. has a policy of concurrent return, to ensure the remains of military members killed overseas are quickly repatriated back to America. There are more than 218,000 laid to rest in 26 American battle monuments and mission cemeteries located throughout the world. For six years of his career, Kleinhenz said one of his most rewarding and memorable duties was to honor 262 men and women who died in service (not in battle) in the U.S. Navy.

“Think about all the United States soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Airmen who also served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Today, we honor all those who served our country. We honor those who put the uniform of our country on and upheld the values that our country was founded on: freedom, liberty, democracy.”

“Everything in our lives happens for a reason,” Kleinhenz said. “He’s in control of our lives and I believe He’s in control of our great country.”

“I believe Memorial Day is not only for paying tribute to our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Airmen who passed away, but also is to show this nation’s respect for all who served, and are still serving, a calling for which only 23 percent of today’s young adults can even qualify for. I’m thankful to be standing in front of you today to honor each of you and those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Kleinhenz stated.

The second guest speaker was Rev. William Veach.

He noted that “we live in the greatest country on the face of this planet, bar none, and it is because of men and women that have paid a price, the ultimate price and sacrifice, for our freedom and liberty. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for our sins that we be set free from condemation. Men and women, young and old, doesn’t matter the race, the creed, the color, whatever, have given their lives so you and I can be here today.

“So how do we honor that? How do we, as citizens of this great country, the United States of America, how do we honor? We have ceremonies like this, the reading of those that have passed away, laying of the wreath, the 21 gun salute. That’s once a year we do those things. I do not believe, in my heart, that any young man or woman and anybody serving today is willing to give their lives for one day a year.

“I believe we have a calling and an absolute responsibility to serve our country and to serve each other daily, in honor these folks who have given their lives — not just once a year.

MINISTER IS GUEST SPEAKER — Rev. William Veach, above, was second guest speaker at the Memorial Day Ceremony held May 29 at the Veterans Committee building in Taylorsville.

He quoted from the Bible in Galatians, Chapter 5: “For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. for all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. For if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”

Veach added, “Scripture is telling us, folks, we have a calling and a commission to serve each other, to be here for each other, to love one another, and to stand up and to use the liberty that we have to stand for what is right, what is just, and the freedoms and principles that this country was founded on. That’s how we honor those who have given their lives.”

“We honor those by standing up for the flag, standing up for the National Anthem, standing up any time anything has to do with our country and realizing that we are the freest, greatest, and noblest country on the planet.

“We have a calling to liberty. Somewhere along the line, I have a feeling we’ve forgotten that in our country, what it means to be free…God allowed us to be the great country that we are. And in honoring God, we should honor those that serve, and love each other, and serve each other daily. We are not to use this liberty for an occasion to the flesh, meaning selfishness. Am I glad to be free? Yes. But I shouldn’t use that freedom for what I want. It should be to serve the country, to serve my fellow man, to serve my family. That’s what we’re all called to do. You can’t honor anybody any greater than finding a way to serve them.

“These men and women loved us enough to give their lives so that we could be here today,” Veach said. “Until the Lord calls us home, they died so we could be free every day. My question to each and every one of you, and even to myself, is: Am I fulfilling my calling of liberty? Am I fulfilling what God has put me here to do, to serve and to love my fellow man, and to love my neighbor just as much as those who served have loved us all, and give their lives so we could be free?”

Following a closing prayer by Rev. Veach, veterans and guests were treated to a hot dog luncheon.

“TAPS” — Kris Knowlton, Captain of the DAV Chapter 84 Honor Guard, above, played “Taps” with an electronic bugle May 29.

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