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by Patty Cheffey
Sharing stories and passing on memories were encouraged during the message from Ret. Lt. Col. Brad Snow during Palmyra’s annual Memorial Day ceremonies at Greenwood Cemetery.
Over 100 people attended this year’s event which also saw special music and the laying of the wreath by this year’s Poppy Girl, Brooklyn Scholl, who was assisted by Marcia Fohey, American Legion Auxiliary poppy chairman.
Snow, who was born and raised in Palmyra, noted that with his dad a member of the American Legion, he had attended several past Memorial Day services, often as the person playing Taps…thanks to his dad volunteering him for the job.
“This is a special time and this is a special place as there are several Marion County veterans resting here,” said Snow. “One of my all-time favorites is right over there. I said hello to dad this morning.”
Noting Memorial day is for honoring those who have died in the service to this country, Snow said he also believed it should honor those who “came home, built their future and raised their families.
“Some would say those should not be part of these because they did not die while in service,” he said. “But I tend to disagree. Those who came home continued to serve their country. They worked to make their communities better for us all, and without their continued service to their communities and our country, we would not be here today.”
Noting that while growing up in Palmyra and having a dad as a Legion post commander, it was there he first heard the stories from the men and women who had served.
“I think it was these stories that were told around a table or in the back of a truck putting out flags that started the seed of my future,” he said, noting
he chose the Army even though his father, who was in the navy, wanted him to consider that route. “I had a simple answer – I could not swim very far, but I knew how to dig a hole.”
So, when Snow came up short one PE credit while in college, and learned ROTC counted for PE, he followed that line.
“Little did I know that I’d spend the next 24 years digging holes and doing PE,” he said.
Noting it was the stories that helped him decide on a career, Snow encouraged people today to tell their stories.
“As those generations before us did, telling stories about their adventures and various parts of the world they experience, it is not our turn to tell our stories…the stories of which we are proud,” he said, quoting Sue Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
During Memorial Day, Snow said to sit down with friends and family and tell stories. “What you accomplished that caused you to swell up full of pride. Tell the stories of family long gone,” he said. “For it is through these stories that we keep memories and families alive.
“Some will say our youth and young adults are out of touch, but when was the last time we invited them to come sit down and tell them stories?” Snow asked. “When did we take an interest in their future goals and plans and offered thoughtful advice.”
Noting there are between 160,000 and 170,000 U.S. service members deployed, and that many of these are in hostile situations, Snow encouraged people to help those young service members when they come home and want to try to start their lives and begin a family.
“We, the old vets, can listen to their stories and try to understand what they have seen and experienced. We can be the sounding board for them and help them to take their places as the new blood keeping our communities alive,” Snow said. “We can show them through our examples of how to be good citizens. But whatever we do, we cannot forget or ignore them.”
Noting again that Memorial Day is a way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, that is for both grief and celebration, by placing flags and wreaths at memorials, Snow added that he hoped the stories and memories of those were not just remembered at their final resting place.
“So spend some extra time with your loved ones,” he said. “Step back from the daily stresses and reflect on your freedoms that so many of our family and friends died to protect,” he said. “I’m not asking you not to have a barbecue. I’m asking you to remember why you have the luxury and freedom we enjoy.”
In addition to Snow’s speech, the American Legion ceremony included a welcome by Commander Rick Hoenes, who encouraged those attending to remember those who “ensured we have the freedoms we have today.”
It also included prayers by Chaplain Dale Elston, the playing of Taps by Gary Stowe and special music by Katherina Mehling, who sang America the Beautiful and Amazing Grace and led those attending in The Star Spangled Banner while the flag was raised.
Earlier in the weekend, Robert Stout had posted flags by the headstones of each buried veteran in the cemetery.