Under clear blue skies and a bright sun, the radiance of Memorial Day takes on a special meaning for those who live in the Lahontan Valley.
Military service organizations conducted ceremonies at the Churchill County and Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe cemeteries and The Gardens.
From Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribal Chairman Len George, an Army veteran who deployed to Bosnia in 1996, to members of the military service organizations, Memorial Day is just as important now as in previous years.
“Lately, after the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more people are involved in these events,” George said, after local veterans conducted a ceremony at the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal cemetery northeast of Fallon. “This event to me honors all of our fallen soldiers, all of our fallen veterans. I feel strongly about this.”
George is not alone in his feelings about honoring deceased veterans on Memorial Day. Spouses and veterans alike say Memorial Day is a time for reflections, not a day for rushing out to sales or the beach.
“Our service members we are honoring today came from all walks of life,” George said, adding that many service members shared their pride, determination, selflessness and intensity.
Although many men and women did not like fighting, he said they rose to the nation’s call.
Numa News Editor Jill Downs said the Memorial Day ceremony is important for American Indians and other cultures.
“There is more awareness of what Memorial Day is and honoring those who gave their lives,” she said before veterans conducted the ceremony at the tribe’s cemetery.
Because of the importance of Memorial Day and other solemn events, she said upgrades have been undertaken at the cemetery not only out of pride but also to honor veterans who died.
Rhalda Lewis, a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Post 1002, said she sees more involvement on Memorial Day, especially with auxiliary members whose spouses have recently died.
“We come out to thank many for their service,” she said. “We stick together to help each other out. We are losing our heroes, but this is one time of year we can show our appreciation.”
Pam Wingate, though, said too many people from younger generations don’t appear to grasp the meaning of Memorial Day.
“They think of it as a holiday, no work and party,” she added.
On the other hand, Jo Thompson said she feels the younger generation knows about sacrifice, but on many occasions, she sees where parents and grandparents don’t bring the children.
All is not lost on the VFW women.
“We go into the schools to teach patriotism to students in the classroom,” Lewis said.
Incoming VFW post commander Frank Joseph said he feels a majority of Americans know the meaning of Memorial Day, and because of Fallon’s strong ties to the military, he doesn’t see a lack of understanding when honoring the military.
Likewise, Lance MacNeil, former commander of American Legion Post 16 in Fallon, said the number of people who pay tribute to the fallen service members at Churchill County’s three cemeteries has remained the same.
“Memorial Day is to honor those who passed,” MacNeil said. “It’s not we thank you for serving, it’s to thank them for their service.”
In the two decades of attending Memorial Day ceremonies, MacNeil said he has never seen a fluctuation in the number of people who attend the various events.
Army veteran Buck Allen said participating in Memorial Day ceremonies is a great honor.
“It makes this old guy’s heart feel good,” he said.
Participating in his first Memorial Day ceremony was Christopher Smith, a nine-year Navy veteran who is Post 16’s first vice commander.
“I do think the interest is there especially for the ones it touches,” Smith said of Memorial Day.
Smith said about half his high-school graduating class either served or knew someone who served in the military. As for Monday’s interest, Smith was surprised.
“I was so impressed by the people who brought out their lounge chairs to see the ceremony,” he said.
A 1996 high school graduate, Desaree Washington said history taught in the schools appears to be moving away from the great wars such as World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam, and, instead, focusing on Iraq and Afghanistan. She said it’s important for today’s students to know of the hardships and sacrifices that occurred in earlier wars.
Churchill County Clerk-Treasurer Kelly Helton said it’s important to remember the service members who offered so much for their country.
“We have to show people how we feel about the sacrifices of others,” she added.