Columnists

Memorial Day Ceremony ‘An Honor, Privilege And Duty’

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Flags fly as U.S. Army Vietnam veteran James Martin speaks Monday morning during the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Hamilton County War Memorial in downtown Noblesville.

U.S. Army Vietnam veteran James Martin always calls it his “duty” to emcee the Noblesville Memorial Day Ceremony at the Hamilton County War Memorial in downtown Noblesville.

He welcomed the crowd — this year a larger crowd than even before COVID — to Monday morning’s ceremony.

Martin was pleased “to see this many people,” he said. “My golly.”

The ceremony is a tradition made possible by the Ralph Lehr Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 6246 and the Noblesville American Legion Frank Huntzinger Post 45.

The Navy Club USA Ship No . 29, the Indiana National Guard, retired military personnel and color guard were among the volunteers.

“I appreciate you all being here and all being part of it …You guys make it all happen. Thank you very much,” Martin said. “…I’m happy to see all you people here participating.”

Although, he doesn’t like to hear people say “Happy Memorial Day,” he said, “because this isn’t a happy day. This is a day of remembrance and a day of sacrifice.”

The ceremony, he always has said, is “an honor” and “a privilege to do something for Memorial Day on the Square in Noblesville.” And the ceremony is similar every year and includes many traditions, including inviting the Noblesville Mayor to speak at the ceremony.

“This is a wonderful crowd this morning,” said Mayor Chris Jensen. He thanked the VFW and the American Legion for helping to coordinate the ceremony. “They’ve become even better partners of the City of Noblesville over the last several years. Thank you for always inviting me to be a part of this.”

While Memorial Day “can be a somber day,” he said, “…I join you all in mourning and remembering those lives lost. But I do so with hopeful optimism for the future of our country. We gather today to remember those lives that were given in sacrifice of freedom, and it’s something that we should continue to remember and talk about for generations to come.”

Jensen said, “… Freedom everyday is under assault in this country and this world, and so we must continue to take pride in what we have here in this great country … We gather with a heavy heart today to remember those but also to thank all of you who have served and all of you who will continue to inspire future generations to serve going forward.”

He said, “Noblesville is a blessed community, a community of 70,000 residents that I genuinely believe take pride in our veterans who celebrate and honor those veterans who have served before them who continue to celebrate and talk to future generations of veterans who will come before.”

Jensen said, “Today we do have solemn hearts as we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may stand on this beautiful plaza on this gorgeous Memorial Day weekend and remember their sacrifice and gather with each other.”

Martin asked veterans in attendance to raise their hands. “My salute to all of you. Thank you for being here. You’re what made this thing possible,” he said.

Before the ceremony, Martin researched articles on Memorial Day. Parties, parades and poppies.

“Memorial Day isn’t just a day off and the beginning of summer. It really honors the sacrifices, those sacrifices that U.S. military personnel have made to defend our freedom. Memorial Day was originally created to commemorate the lives of those veterans who were lost in the Civil War, both Union and Confederate. It goes back to 1868; in fact, the very first Memorial Day speech was made by a gentleman named James A. Garfield, who went on to become President No. 20 of the United States.”

Memorial Day was known as Declaration Day until 1971 when it became Memorial Day. The date of Memorial Day was changed from May 30 to the last Monday in the month of May “so we could have a three-day weekend,” Martin noted.

“Some got drafted. Some chose to enlist. We all chose to serve,” he said.

“Today is a day of remembrance, a day of gratitude and a day of patriotism … We can’t repay what veterans have done for us, but I hope you will use this holiday as an opportunity to recognize the importance of democracy, freedom of speech and all of the other rights that are guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.”

He also made mention of the Noblesville fallen hero, the late Staff Sgt. Matthew R. Ammerman, who was killed in action on Dec. 3, 2014, in the Zabul province of Afghanistan.

Veterans waved American flags. They donned military ball caps denoting their branch of service or the war in which they served. And Paul Clark of Noblesville spoke and thanked the veterans and shared about the Battlefield Memorial monument that was behind him. The ceremony also included the annual laying of the wreath by American Legion Post Commander John Morris. Legion and VFW chaplain Jim Eichelberger gave prayers.

The ceremony was followed by a 21-gun rifle salute and Taps and reading of the names of veterans buried at Riverside Cemetery and a Remembrance Service at Crownland Cemetery, with rifle salute and Taps also at those locations. A pitch-in lunch followed all of the ceremonies at the VFW.

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.