American Legion post observes Memorial Day with public ceremony
The Rugby Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23 remembered the sacrifices made by those serving their country in the military in a May 31 ceremony at Memorial Hall.
The ceremony was open to the public and simulcast by Rugby Broadcasters. Hosts Kirk Seaver and John Gustafson gave tribute to fallen soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, introducing speakers, music and prayers.
Staff Sgt. David Merkley spoke to the more than 100 attendees at the ceremony.
Merkley shared his experiences as a soldier deployed to conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. He also spoke of his experience as the son and nephew of Vietnam veterans. Merkley described his dad as his hero.
“He was in the United States Marine Corps. He served from 1967 to 1969 and I knew nothing of what he had experienced in the Vietnam War, absolutely nothing, because he refused to talk about it,” Merkley said.
Merkley said his father, who worked as a police officer and raised a family, opened up to him to share his experiences as a combat vet when his son returned from duty. Merkley said his father had not only experienced the terror of war but the disrespect of his fellow citizens on his return.
“My Uncle Clayton made it out of Vietnam, “ Merkley said, “But Vietnam did not leave him. He came home, but he didn’t live long. It was hard for him to come back to a United States that didn’t want him for some reason. And that’s how he felt inside. So, he ended his life.”
Merkley urged his audience to remember the U.S. military still missing in action in Vietnam.
He referred to the time many veterans experience after combat as “the silent war. It’s the one that sits in your head. The war of people you’ve lost.”
Surviving the silent war is much more difficult, Merkley said. After naming fellow soldiers killed in action, Merkley said, “All these people are still in my mind and I remember them every year.”
Merkley described how combat veterans need the support of family, friends and community to deal with their experiences.
“It’s important we remember the spouses and families as well,” Merkley said.
Surviving spouses of Vietnam-era veterans received honors during the ceremony.
The Rugby High School Band played The National Anthem and musical selections for the event.
Chaplain Josh Siegler opened and closed the ceremony with prayers for military members past and present and the nation. After the ceremony, Army veteran Gabe Scheet placed a wreath on a memorial outside of the hall. Members of the legion auxiliary served a lunch to attendees after the event.
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