LAUGHLIN — Terrill Tinnell summed up the purpose of the somber occasion in two sentences.
“It’s not about us,” the commander of American Legion Richard Springston Post 60 of Laughlin told an overflow crowd Monday morning. “It’s about those who’ve passed.”
Laughlin’s annual Memorial Day observance, moved from its traditional spot under the Avenue of Flags on Casino Drive to the American Legion Hall at the Post on Bruce Woodbury Drive, offered Laughlin residents and others an opportunity to remember the fallen, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country.
And, as Post Chaplain Victoria Conely, Tinnell and Roger Reimer, commander of Laughlin VFW Post 243 both pointed out, to remember the sacrifices of others as well.
In her invocation, Conely paid tribute to not only those killed in action — Decoration Day, the forerunner to Memorial Day, was set aside to decorate the graves of solders — but also for those still listed as missing in action, prisoners of war and veterans who have died in the last year.
Tinnell added the families of veterans killed on duty, noting that it was not only the veteran who made the sacrifice.
“We cannot bring back the departed,” he said, urging the audience to honor them and their families.
Tinnell said that while there is no requirement to remember the fallen heroes, it is an American tradition to do it.
“We do it because we want to,” he said. “We do it because we need to.”
Reimer’s message touched on World War I history and the original of the VFW’s Buddy Poppy program.
VFW representatives were on hand outside the Legion to present a red paper poppy to all who entered. Proceeds from the Buddy Poppy program — many people make a small donation in exchange for the lapel flower — support various VFW veterans assistance programs.
The poppy became a symbol of war through the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian Medical Officer John McCrae as he witnessed the scene of the Second Battle of Ypres during World War I. The battle had more than 70,000 casualties — dead, wounded or missing — from the English and Canadian forces in Belgium.
“The fields of Flanders were covered with red poppies and the English soldiers said that the poppies were red from the blood from the soldiers who last their lives on the battlefields of Flanders,” Reimer said. “The red poppy, which grew profusely in the fields of the Belgian Flanders, has become the international symbol of the Allied victory over Germany in World War I and the hoped-for peace for the future.
“It’s for this reason that the VFW distributes the red poppies during Memorial Day celebrations. Might add that both the Canadian Legion and British Legion do likewise.”
After reading “In Flanders Field,” Reimer added, “In a nutshell, the VFW Buddy Poppy started out as a memory of the dead and wounded in World War I and since then has gone on to signify the dead and wounded of all wars that America has been involved in.”
Reimer then read the names of 18 Laughlin High School graduates, from the Class of 2011 to the Class of 2018, who are “Laughlin Hometown Heroes,” serving in the U.S. armed forces.