With flags waving in a sometimes heavy wind Monday morning, residents gathered at the Arlington Cemetery to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by generations of men and women in uniform.
"These honored dead gave the most precious gift they had — life itself — for loved ones and neighbors, for comrades and country and for us," Pastor Larry Jirsak of United Church of Christ in Scribner said in his invocation. "Let us honor their memory by caring for the family members they left behind, by caring for their wounded comrades and by safeguarding the freedoms for which they gave their lives."
Echoing what others were saying across the country and at similar ceremonies, Jirsak reminded everyone that freedom is not free.
"Never let us not forget those who gave the last full measure of devotion to ensure that freedom would be our legacy," he said. Though their names may fade with the passing of generations, may we never forget what they have done."
American Legion Post 71 Commander Gary Denison opened with a quote from Maj. Brent Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2018. He was mayor of North Odgen, Utah, at the time of his death.
"As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ God Bless America."
"We continue to lose heroes every day, in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and military training accidents and missions around the world," Denison said. "Some were only teenagers and many were just in their 20s. Regardless of their ages, to their families, they are forever young, healthy and strong.
Denison said that more than 1 million American men and women have made the "supreme sacrifice" while serving in wars and conflicts.
"We honor all of them," he said. "They died so we can continue to cherish the things we love — God, country, family, freedom."
While he said nobody can replace the fallen heroes, as Americans "maybe we can contribute in ways, such as handling a car repair, babysitting or mowing a Gold Star family's lawn."
"We cannot bring back the departed, but we can honor their sacrifice by caring for those they loved the most," Denison said.
He hoped those in attendance take Taylor's words advice and "be united."
"When we consider the sacrifice that he and his brothers and sisters in arms made for us, it is the least we can do for them," Denison said.
Denison went on to read the names the names of veterans — some who made the ultimate sacrifice.
An honor guard of active duty personnel and reserve Air Force personnel from Offutt Air Force Base carried the colors. They were followed by the Arlington Veterans Club honor guard.
The National Anthem was played by the Arlington High School band, who also closed the program with "God Bless America." Members of the Arlington Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Pack 145 raised and lowered the flag.