The Village of Galena’s Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony is a step back to a quieter place in time. There are no bands, no parades, just community members gathered to remember those who went to war and didn’t return.
During this year’s Galena Memorial Day Ceremony Mary Bloch sang The National Anthem, members of Sunbury American Legion Post 457 served as honor guard, and 2016 Big Walnut High School graduate Madelyn Wecker served as the keynote speaker.
Wecker, whose grandfather was a World War II Navy Radio Technician, said she didn’t understand the value of sitting down with her grandparents and listening to their stories when she was a child.
“Now, the older I get, what I wouldn’t give to have one more hardy conversation with him about what life was like when our young men shipped off to Europe and their sweethearts ran victory drives,” Wecker said. “A dwindling population, it’s crucial that their memory, the memory of every veteran in fact, be preserved, remembered, and cherished. Those of us in the crowd today with veterans for family, I implore you to sit down and talk with them so that you do not live with the same regrets I do.”
Wecker quoted George Orwell, who said: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
“If this is true, rough and ready men is not so much who they were, but what they were willing to become to protect us and our right to simply be left alone to lead our own lives,” Wecker said. “In the worst of it, I imagine at times they had nothing but each other to fight for and carry them through. For the ones who came home, they learned things about family and friendship and community perhaps to a deeper degree than the rest of us. Iron sharpens iron, and some things a person learns only from the hammer and white heat.
“But at the end of the day, they were still just someone’s child, sibling, spouse, parent, or friend,” Wecker added. “Life unfolded in such a way that they put on their country’s uniform to serve, young men and women no different than me who stepped into the breach left behind by gray-haired politicians and diplomats who fell short. Memorial Day is a chance for the rest of us to stop and think about what we are going to do with the opportunities secured for the rest of us by these rough and ready soldiers, airmen, sailors, guardsmen and Marines – some who came home, and some who did not.”
Following a laying of a wreath at the Give and Take Club World War II Monument on Galena Square by Galena Mayor Tom Hopper, everyone leisurely walked along Walnut Street to Galena Cemetery where Galena Village Council member Dave Simmons presented closing remarks.
As he does each year on Memorial Day, Simmons shared a story of a Galena area resident that served in a past war and is buried in the cemetery.
Simmons told the story of Lee Roy Fetherolf, who joined the service in January 1943 and became part of Battery D of the 537th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Automatic Weapons Battalion.
In June of 1944 Fetherolf landed a week after the first wave of the invasion of Normandy, France. He was wounded in August and died on August 11, 1944. He was 35 years old, and had been married to his second wife Emma for just 43 days.
Before a final prayer by Tom Paul, Simmons expressed appreciation for community members and others who pitched in to prepare the cemetery grounds for Memorial Day.
“Some of those involved have family members buried here, but many have participated simply because they recognized that it needed to be done and wanted to help,” Simmons said. “We have all witnessed a remarkable communal event and should take pride in it.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093