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Idaho Enterprise

A Somber Memorial Day in Oneida County

The American Legion honor Guard provided a three volley salute at Monday's ceremony to honor those who have served and passed on.

Memorial Day dawned bright and cheerful in the Malad Valley, against the backdrop of the day set aside to memorialize the sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces, as well as all those who have gone ahead us.  During the day, the American Legion toured the cemeteries of Oneida County to present a three volley salute to honor the memories of those interred and remembered there.  During the featured stop in Malad City, a large crowd was greeted with an address from Veterans Service Officer Bob Stokes, veteran and county commissioner Brian Jeppsen, a rousing musical tribute from Kolton Cox, and a touching introduction to a new memorial in the cemetery from Jill Vanderwood, as well as a dedication by City Councilmember Larry Thomas.  In addition, the MHS Band performed the National Anthem, the American Legion Honor Guard led by Sergeant at Arms Rick Madsen presented the traditional volley salute, Taps was performed by Laura DeJong and Paisley Smith, and words from Jody Owens and Malena Jimenez were added to Vanderwood’s in recognition of the new memorial.  It was a fittingly heartfelt observation of the day’s significance, and the impact that the passing of loved ones leaves on those who remain behind.

After an invocation by Gene Caldwell and the Pledge of Allegiance, the MHS Band played the National Anthem and Bob Stokes introduced the featured speaker, Commissioner Brian Jeppsen.  

Brian Jeppsen spoke on the history of Memorial Day, as well as its observation.  “Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died in battle. It is believed that May 30 was selected as the official date because flowers would be in bloom all across the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.  Throughout the decades to follow, this day of remembrance was observed throughout the United States,” Jeppsen explained. 

“On May 11, 1950, a Congressional joint resolution was approved, calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period during this day when the people of the United States might unite in supplication to our God,” he continued, and went on to explain the centrality of faith in the commemoration of the sacrifices of those who had gone on, as well as the focus on the individual service members.  “We also dedicate this day of prayer to remember and to honor and  give thanks for those men and women who have fallen in battle to preserve the principles of freedom at home and throughout the world. Their sacrifices are noble and just and will forever be counted as such in that great and last day of reckoning.”

 During Jeppsen’s remarks, the Gold Star Memorial Bell was tolled in honor of those service members who had passed away during the year since last Memorial Day.  The bell ringing was performed by Rylie and Markie Marshall, and the names read out were:  Robert Colton, Robert Hess , Douglas Jensen, Sheldon Jensen, Eldon Martindale, Duane Miles, William “Bill” Neal, and Russell South.

Jeppsen closed with the words of Lincoln, Reagan, and Francis Scott Key.  “‘It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’

President Ronald Reagan reminded us that: ‘As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor, shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation.’

I close with the pleading words of Francis Scott Key, now preserved as the final verse of our National Anthem:

‘Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation! Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’ And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!’”

Following Jeppsen’s remarks, the American Legion presented the three volley salute, Laura DeJong and Paisley Smith performed Taps, and Kolton Cox sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”.

The second half of the program featured the introduction and dedication of the cemetery’s new memorial, the “Million Broken Hearts” monument.  The monument has been placed in the cemetery as the result of tireless efforts by Jill Vanderwood, who has been working for more than five years to see that it was placed in the Malad City Cemetery.  After forming a committee to help pay for the monument, fundraising had a series of ups and downs, including an ice cream freezer that failed to freeze, and other setbacks.  Ultimately, the city and American Legion were able to contribute, and Brad Horsley helped procure the monument stone at a discounted rate, allowing it to be commissioned in time for this Memorial Day.  The monument has been placed next to the Gold Star Family Memorial in the heart of the cemetery.

Vanderwood, who has herself been affected by the early deaths of others to suicide, violence, and accidental death, explained that she decided on the name for the monument because “the ripple effect of an early death can affect a family for many generations.”  During her speech, Vanderwood recounted some of the events that have affected her, including the suicide of a younger brother, the accidental overdose of a nephew, the accidental death of a son in law, and her own experience fleeing domestic abuse.  As part of her presentation, Vanderwood read a powerful piece titled “No Susan, You don’t have to live like this!” detailing the experience of someone living through an abusive relationship.  She hopes that the monument can “provide a place of peace and comfort” for survivors of the kind of trauma caused by early death.

Malena Jimenez of the Oneida Crisis Center and Jody Owens of Labyrinth Mental Health also spoke to the community on the issues of mental health and domestic partner violence, providing resources for those in need and reassurance that there were people who wanted to help.

Following the remarks, the monument was dedicated by Councilmember Larry Thomas, who served as the City’s liaison the Cemetery Board, and the crowd was dismissed to visit the graves of those they had come to pay respects to throughout the cemetery.

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