The senselessness of war and the sacrifices of soldiers who’ve died in battle were remembered in a Memorial Day tribute Monday at Wright Park.
Master of ceremonies Stephen Johnson III recalled his visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, where approximately 9,387 Americans killed in the 1944 D-Day invasion are buried.
“Looking out at the thousands of white stones that mark the fallen, you cannot help but sense the futility and folly of war,” he said. “However, you are also struck by the honor and the courage of these young men and women who answered their nation’s call and give their last full measure of devotion for freedom.”
Johnson said Europeans liberated from German occupation by Americans have never forgotten their sacrifice and keep the graves of the dead well maintained. He asked the approximately 100 people in attendance to take time Monday to visit a cemetery where veterans are buried.
Johnson also quoted verses from “For the Fallen,” poet Laurence Binyon’s tribute to English soldiers killed in World War I: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,” Johnson read. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
In another reminder of World War I, members of Oberlin Boy Scouts Troop 401 and Cub Scouts Pack 460 sold red poppies to raise money for the Ohio Veterans Home. The poppies became a symbol of the war and were memorialized in the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae. “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row by row,” wrote McCrae, a physician in the war.
About 116,000 Americans died in World War I, according to the Department of Defense. They are among the nearly one million soldiers — from the Revolutionary War to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — who have died in America’s wars. Keynote speaker and Oberlin police chief Juan Torres said they didn’t die in vain because their deaths helped preserve freedom.
Torres, a Marine from 1985 to 1989, also thanked the survivors of war and active military members. “Let’s also keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
The Rev. Laurence Nevels, Christ Temple Apostolic Church pastor, also remembered active duty members and their families. He prayed they find peace and strength. And he prayed for forgiveness for people allowing war and the pain it creates.
The annual event also included a tribute to Howard Codney, who died May 24 at age 76. Codney, a U.S. Navy veteran and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6273, co-organized the event the last 20 years. “He loved this,” Ronald Codney said of his father.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune Stephen Johnson III