'Let us honor and remember those who have fallen'


Marione Martin

Donna Perot plays the haunting notes of "Taps" on her bugle during the Memorial Day program in Alva. Standing at attention are, from left, Jim Hurst, Brad Perot and Clint Strawn. They used rifles to fire a three-volley salute following "Taps."

Vehicles streamed up the hill and into the Alva Municipal Cemetery, parking along roadways. The occupants, many carrying lawn chairs, walked to the flagpole area and found positions among the surrounding trees. Memorial Day in Alva is recognized with a morning program organized by the Alva Cemetery Board, Alva American Legion Post 92, Alva Scouts BSA Troop 392 and the Regulators Motorcycle Club.

Dignitaries were seated at the south end of the square, facing the flagpole that centers the area. Cemetery Board Chairman Lenny Reed welcomed guests, and Rev. Ron Argo offered the invocation. At the command of Scout Daxton Williams, everyone stood while Jaxon Headlee, Sam Newton and Rylen Headlee marched to the flagpole carrying the Stars and Stripes as well as a Prisoner of War flag.

After the flags were raised to half-staff, everyone stood with hands on hearts to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Youthful Avery Goss stepped to the podium to sing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Standing a little further to the south, Donna Perot lifted her bugle to play "Taps". Then Jim Hurst, Brad Perot and Clint Strawn raised rifles to sound a three-volley salute.

As the audience settled into chairs and leaned against tree trunks, Reed introduced Sadie Bier, who grew up in Aline and graduated from Northwestern Oklahoma State University where she has now completed a master's degree with emphasis on political science. Bier, who serves as a member of the Alva City Council representing Ward 3, is also a veteran.

Bier started with a brief history of Memorial Day which began on May 5, 1868, as Decoration Day to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives in the American Civil War. The day evolved to honor all fallen military personnel from all U.S. wars and in 1971 it became Memorial Day, a federal holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May.

"This holiday weekend holds different meanings for each individual," said Bier. "For some, it's a long weekend to enjoy the company of family and friends, while for others it's a day to remember those who have given their lives to protect and serve the United States of America.

"As for myself, this day carries both meanings. When I was younger and hadn't yet joined the military, it was a carefree weekend filled with fun and no care in the world of the day's meaning. I did not have family in the military growing up, and I didn't truly grasp the significance of this day until I signed that enlistment paper.

"Throughout high school, I watched my friends who had graduated enlist in the Marines and Army. I knew then I wanted to serve my country. In my senior year, I met my now-husband, Brandon, who had just returned from his first deployment in Iraq. He joined the Oklahoma National Guard at 17 years old with his parents' permission. Being around his unit every month further fueled my desire to serve.

"In 2006, two years after graduating high school, I finally made the decision to enlist in the Oklahoma National Guard. At that time, Brandon and his unit were preparing for their second tour in Iraq. I completed my training in March 2007 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, earning a military police MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).

"It was during my training, hearing stories of deployments from drill sergeants, that I truly understood the experiences my friends had been through and would continue to endure. It was something we didn't often discuss. That's when my perception of Memorial Day began to shift.

"When I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 alongside Brandon's unit, my perspective completely transformed. Memorial Day now means so much more to me than just a long weekend or an extra day off work. During that deployment, we tragically lost 14 brave individuals, two of whom I knew personally and worked with. These 14 people selflessly signed their names to a piece of paper, making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country, its citizens and our freedom to enjoy long weekends and live as we please.

"I not only remember those 14 we lost in-country, but I also remember those who made it home but faced struggles. Many believe that once our contract with the military ends, our worries are over. The reality, however, is that many who return home continue to grapple with what they witnessed and endured. They have selflessly sacrificed their normal lives. I remember my brothers and sisters who made it home but later succumbed to the mental toll they endured.

Marione Martin

Avery Goss looks toward the flag as she sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" a cappella on Memorial Day. Behind her is Lenny Reed, chairman of the Alva Cemetery Board.

"On this weekend and in the future, I hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country, your families, cities or state. This tribute extends not only to the military but also to police officers and firefighters, all of whom willingly put themselves in harm's way to protect and serve. They face daily dangers and still rise to the occasion, prioritizing the safety and well-being of those around them.

"Today, as we enjoy this extended weekend, let us honor and remember those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation, as well as honor and remember those who have protected and served our communities."

Rev. Argo closed the program with a benediction. Then everyone dispersed to secure donuts provided by Arden and Nicki Chaffee before returning to vehicles or moving to decorate graves.

A video of the program may be viewed at http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com.


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