FAIRMONT - Honoring the past and those who have passed serves as a reminder to the living.
This was the message Army veteran Jeff Hagen delivered at the annual Memorial Day program Monday at Lakeside Cemetery in Fairmont.
Hagen, a Ceylon native who served in Operation Desert Storm before returning to the area in 1992, called attention to the small flags next to many of the grave markers at the cemetery.
IN?HONOR?AND?IN?MEMORY — Members of Boy Scout Troops 56 and 57 of Fairmont raised the flag at Veterans Park in Fairmont as part of the Memorial Day Program. (By Judy Bryan)
THE?RED, WHITE?AND?BLUE?— Members of local veterans groups placed flags on more than 1,000 markers at Lakeside Cemetery in observance of Memorial Day. (By Judy Bryan)
"This is the first time Lakeside Cemetery has reached the 1,000 mark," Hagen said, referring to the number of flags that had been placed on veterans' graves by members of local veterans groups. "Because of these men and women, we are able to live freely."
Hagen said the flags were "an eye-opener" to him. He knew many of the deceased, but was not aware they had served in the military.
The flags provide "a reminder to the living," he said. "It should remind us never to forget. We owe it to the men and women (who serve) to continue to teach their history."
Hagen pointed out the dwindling membership numbers of veterans organizations like the VFW and American Legion. He singled out a group of Korean War veterans from the area who are making presentations in local schools.
The true meaning of their service "doesn't come alive" for the students until they meet the people directly involved and hear their stories.
"They need your help to continue these great programs," Hagen said. "We owe it to the men and women (who served) to continue to teach their history."
He challenged the audience to continue to honor the legacy of the military, even after Memorial Day is over.
"We must keep all promises to those who have served in the past and those who serve today," Hagen said. We must "heal their wounds, help them return to work and care for their survivors."
Supporting the men and women who have served or currently are serving will ensure "the legacy of the past by serving the needs of the present," he said.
Also participating in the program were Bob Altman of the Fairmont American Legion, Ardyce Meyer of the Fairmont American Legion Auxiliary, LeRoy Diekmann and Darrel Krahler of the Fairmont VFW, the veterans' color guard, Ramona Harper, the Fairmont Junior/Senior High School marching band and members of local Boy and Girl Scout troops.