WATERLOO — American veterans and their sacrifices were at the center of Memorial Day events throughout the Cedar Valley on Monday.
Among the celebrations and sober reflections was a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Hall hosted by the Waterloo Post of Disabled American Veterans.
“We all have memories and stories that inspire us as Americans to stand up for their heritage. The sacrifices made on our behalf are breathtaking,” said keynote speaker Lt. Col. Garrett Gingrich. “I believe that it is above all the sacrifice that distinguishes the men and women who have served their country.
He is the commander of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Iowa National Guard, based in Waterloo, also known as the “Ironman Battalion.”
Other speeches and prayers were also delivered, accompanied by music, a gun salute and a waterside ceremony. Gingrich reminded those present that Americans continue to serve in danger.
“Even today, thousands of men and women — as many as people today have in the past — leave their homes to fight tyranny and protect freedom,” Gingrich said.
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Prior to the ceremony, the DAV organized a parade that passed through Waterloo town centre. Along the way, uniformed veterans and community members were greeted by residents waving flags from the sidewalks.
Around the same time as the Veterans Day ceremony, retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral and U.S. Senate candidate Mike Franken donated one of his old uniforms to the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. He also spoke with museum volunteers and told the story of his father, who was on the USS Vincennes when it sank in the Battle of Savo Island in 1942. It was the same campaign in which the Sullivan brothers were lost at sea three months later.
“I think it’s a statement about the strength of the community that they would honor the loss of one of their families,” Franken said. “And the symbolism of the single family is not lost. All these families who have also abandoned their young people in the conflicts, it is revealing that the community realizes that there are still some in the nation to run at the sound of the gun.
An event was also held at MercyOne Cedar Falls Medical Center honoring a civilian’s service during World War II. Hazel Swanson, 95, received the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Congressional Gold Medal – on Monday afternoon for her service in the Civilian Air Patrol. The CAP received the medal in 2014 for its more than 120,000 members who mobilized during the conflict to support military efforts.
Swanson was recently identified as a former CAP member eligible for recognition, with her discharge papers dating back to January 1945. She received a bronze replica of the 2014 award.
“I never dreamed that I was going to reach this wonderful level,” Swanson said.
“A lot of things they did there during the war were important to everyone,” said her husband, Don Swanson.
He served in World War II. While servicemen of this period are regularly honored for their service, Don Swanson expressed his gratitude that his wife was also recognized for her contribution to the war effort.
“I’m glad she got it,” he said.
Photos: Funeral services for Seaman First Class David Franklin Tidball at Independence