Veterans: What Memorial Day means to them

Tribune Staff • May 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

On Monday, we’ll celebrate Memorial Day, a federal holiday during which we remember those who died while serving our country in the armed forces. 

We asked several area veterans what Memorial Day means to them. Here are their answers:

Bill Kaufman

“I was drafted into the Army in 1966 and was assigned to the Old Guard, Honor Guard Company at Fort Myer, Virginia. The Old Guard is the ceremonial unit of the Army and is adjacent to Arlington Cemetery. I participated in a number of funerals while assigned to the Army Drill Team. I was later assigned to the JFK platoon, which at the time guarded the President Kennedy Memorial gravesite. I was later promoted to sergeant of the guard at JFK.

“Every Memorial Day, the soldiers from the Old Guard would place flags on every grave in Arlington National Cemetery. We worked through the night placing each flag a ‘boot length’ in front of every grave. I remember how quiet it was in the cemetery without all the tourists. It was that evening that I came to the realization that this was a place of peaceful reverence. When you see the thousands of plain markers of men and women who sacrificed for our freedom, you realize you are truly on ‘hallowed ground.’

“On my days off, I would sometimes walk through the cemetery. I remember one day in particular when it was cold and snowing and the snow was piled on top of the tombstones. I remember it being so quiet except off in the distance I could hear the rifle volleys and ‘Taps’ being play for yet another fallen hero.”

George Bennett 

“On Memorial Day, I remember the soldier that was killed in the fox hole next to my brother. My brother survived with an injured knee. If we could only learn to avoid war so people don’t have to suffer and die.”

Jim Porenta

“My dad and other World War II soldiers from Grand Haven were sent to the other side of the world to Papua, New Guinea. During the Battle of Buna-Gona, about 2,000 were killed and 12,000 or more were wounded or sickened by the lack of supplies, the climate or disease.”

Michael Ey

“In 1958, our high school class went on a trip to Washington, D.C. We visited Arlington National Cemetery, and I never forgot the long rows of grave markers that went way off into the distance.”

Harold Weaver

“Movies like ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ come to mind, making me want to honor service members and to be grateful for their sacrifice.”

Jack Gardner

“It’s a personal time for me to remember my family members who served or were lost. I visit their graves and think about them as they are buried near each other.”

Ray Ribbink

“I just got out of the Army and was in the Army Reserves. I didn’t like marching in the Memorial Day parade because the reservists just didn’t know how to march.”

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