Honoring the fallen
Legion’s Post 29 continues tradition
Last week, ahead of Memorial Day, members of the Siloam Springs American Legion chapter, volunteers and members of the local Boy Scout troop gathered at Oak Hill Cemetery to honor fallen American soldiers. Nearly 700 veterans are buried at the Siloam Springs cemetery.
The gathering on Sunday, May 21, served as the Memorial Day service for American Legion Post 29. A program to observe the holiday was started by American Legion member Bennet Howell and carried on by Paul Chmielewski. Chmielewski passed away last year, and the Memorial Day duties were taken over by current American Legion Honor Guard leader Jim Gillig.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the vets and the American Legion,” Gillig said.
Gillig led a service that included a memorial service honoring Chmielewski and his contributions to the local American Legion chapter. It’s a tradition to honor one veteran each year that Gillig wants to begin this year and continue in the future.
After the memorial service, a ceremonial volley of rifle fire and the playing of “Taps,” the roughly 50 people assembled at the cemetery divided into groups to place American flags on the gravesites of the deceased veterans in Oak Hill Cemetery.
“We, being a patriotic organization, bring it upon ourselves to continue the tradition,” Gillig said.
Gillig gave prepared remarks during the service, during which he spoke about what he saw as problems with the way modern Americans celebrate Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day, like the military itself, is largely cut off from its historic meaning for many Americans,” Gillig said. “They have forgotten what the military stands for in the nation’s history.”
“We, in this country, owe a great debt of gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives so that we could live free. We can start to pay that debt by not forgetting, by remembering what they did and what they stood for,” Gillig said.
Part of continuing the tradition of honoring the fallen is the placing of flags at the graves of veterans. But one problem facing the American Legion and other concerned veterans is that there is no complete list of all of the veterans in Oak Hill Cemetery.
For Sunday’s event, the American Legion used a map that was compiled six or seven years ago by an Eagle Scout, Gillig said. However, more veterans have been buried in the time since then, and not all of the veterans’ graves are marked as the grave of a former serviceman or woman, Gillig said.
Because of that, Gillig said there are most likely veterans interred at Oak Hill Cemetery who do not get flags on Memorial Day. Gillig asked that anyone who knows of such a grave contact the American Legion, either at their weekly meeting on Saturday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. or by contacting Jim Gillig at Jim1. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cemetery rules allow flags to be posted at gravesites for up to two weeks. To keep in compliance with that rule, the American Legion will meet again on June 3 at 1 p.m. to collect the flags, and Gillig said anyone is welcome to come help. The event should only last about an hour, Gillig said.
Flags were Slaced at the graves Rf nearly 700 veterans at Oak Hill CePetery.
Josh Robinson Jr. and his sister Kelly Robinson helped place flags at the graves of veterans on Sunday ahead of Memorial Day.