June 20, 2021

Remembering on Memorial Day

The last Monday in May is reserved for Memorial Day, a day to honor those in the military who gave their lives in the line of duty. While the purpose of the holiday is the same for everyone, what it means to people differs depending on where they are in life and what expierences they have had.

Residents from across Jasper County took a moment to share what Memorial Day means to them.

“I think the name of the holiday hits the nail right on the head. I feel that most people who have served either know someone directly or know of somebody who’s passed. Whether it was during their time in service or happened after because of events in the service and today is all about remembering and honoring those people.”

Luke Pendroy, PCM Graduate currently serving in the United States Navy

“Memorial Day is a day we honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. It is a day we honor the brave men and women that laid down their life for complete strangers. We honor those lives that looked only forward to protect that in which they were leaving behind. Memorial Day is a reminder of the sacrifice these brave soldiers made to provide us the freedoms we have today. Memorial Day is a reminder to me that FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.”

Gennypher Popenhagen, Mayor of Baxter

“It’s a day to reflect on what we all have, for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Chad Alleger, Mayor of Prairie City and served four years in the United State Navy

“Of course, it’s a day set aside to remember and honor our veterans. It’s always been the tradition in our family to memorialize my father’s father and his uncle, who both served our country in the first world war. They’re buried in lovely Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown. My great uncle came under fire in France and was gassed. My brother and I are pleased to proudly carry on that tradition of decorating their graves. Our father, who’s buried in Newton Union Cemetery, was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, serving from 1942 to 1945. He trained fighter pilots in Florida. We always felt fortunate that he never saw battle in Europe, as he and Mama were married in Ocala in 1944. They were able to enjoy 60 years of happily married life together. While the emphasis, properly, is focused on our veterans, it’s also appropriate to remember with affection all of our loved ones gone before on this special day.”

Larry Hurto, Newton Historian

“Memorial Day is a day I spend with my daughter Audrey. We enjoy attending the Memorial Day service at Union Cemetery. It’s a great way to honor the sacrifices that Jasper County veterans have made to ensure we can enjoy the freedoms that we have as Americans. Every year after the 21-gun salute, Audrey likes to pick up the shells as a souvenir.

“In addition to the Union Cemetery service this year, we also attended a service at Sacred Heart Cemetery, where families gathered and Fr. Tony Herold blessed the cemetery and water which was then poured on the graves of loved ones.”

Matt Muckler, Newton City Administrator and served in the United States Army

“As I get older, I reflect more and more about the commemorative aspects of Memorial Day as older generations of my family and friends have begun to pass away. My mom and my aunts have been faithful Memorial Day gravestone decorators for years; their relatives or friends, some I never knew, each get some type of inexpensive but special dollar store flower, flag or decoration. I think it becomes more special every year the more people you start to miss.

“Colfax used to have a unique Memorial Day ceremony at the Skunk River where peonies, poppies and other flowers were poured into the river by boat and then they would slowly pass on by under the bridge all the way to the Mississippi (at least I hope they made it that far) to honor the service members lost at sea. It hasn’t happened in a couple years because of the Pandemic and because it’s an activity that’s getting more difficult to plan for our aging veterans. Hopefully it comes back in future years, because it was a very unique and memorable ceremony for our area.”

Stuart Patterson, Colfax Main Street Director

“It’s hard for me to put into words what Memorial Day means to me. Having one, soon to be two children in the service has given me a much different view than before. Unlike previous times, no one made them swear in, they have chosen this path. And we are very proud. When I see a United States flag, hear the National Anthem, attend or see a military service there are always tears. My heart swells with pride, it’s hard to breathe. It’s impossible to not imagine yourself in that family’s place. Not just for my son and daughter but for everyone who has went this path before them and those that are serving today. My Uncle went to Vietnam directly after high school. I think of all of the soldiers that were so young, with their whole lives ahead of them, that didn’t make it home alive. Most of them, younger than my kids which is so hard to fathom. Because of their bravery and courage, we have our freedom. Regardless of when they have served. I am thankful for all the people in our community who have served and use their talents, time and energy to ensure that our Veterans and current Military members are always remembered and thought of.”

Amber Wallace, Monroe