Hon­or­ing the fallen

Le­gion’s Post 29 con­tin­ues tra­di­tion

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Burch­fiel Staff Writer mburch­fiel@nwadg.com ■

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. am­le­gion@gmail.com.

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.

Michael Burch­fiel/Siloam Sun­day

Flags were Slaced at the graves Rf nearly 700 vet­er­ans at Oak Hill CePetery.

Photo sub­mit­ted

Josh Robin­son Jr. and his sis­ter Kelly Robin­son helped place flags at the graves of vet­er­ans on Sun­day ahead of Memo­rial Day.

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