A nation gives thanks

VFW, American Legion, community honors fallen veterans

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Plato said, "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

Here, those who finally found peace by giving everything -- their lives -- can be found in the veterans' circle at Craig Cemetery.

Their graves, along with numerous others buried outside the circle, were decorated with flags, one of several small gestures of appreciation from the community during the Memorial Day weekend.

The American Legion Post 62 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 hosted a Memorial Day ceremony Monday at the cemetery. The day before, veterans and other community members spent an hour lining the rows of granite headstones with flags.

Vic Beckett, a Craig resident, VFW member and World War II veteran, led one of the tributes to the deceased Monday.

With his father's eternal resting place nearby, Beckett sat on a stool and solemnly read the names of the cemetery's more than 500 veterans who perished fighting in every American conflict since the Civil War.

"I had three brothers and a father in World War II," said Beckett, who also served in the Navy during the war. "(My father) is buried right back there."

"It's important to me," he said about why he's carried out the Memorial Day tradition of reading the names of local veterans for the past 50 years. "It should be important to everybody."

VFW commander Bud Nelson estimated that more than 200 local residents attended the ceremony Monday morning.

Craig resident George Swan--son has attended the annual Memorial Day service for as long as he's lived in Craig -- close to 70 years. At the outset of Beckett's roll call of fallen veterans, Swanson removed his hat and bowed his head.

He didn't raise it until well after Beckett finished reading the list.

Swanson, who long ago served in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, said lowering his head during the reading was a simple and appropriate way of honoring the sacrifices America's soldiers made for the freedom of those back home.

"I'm just honoring the dead," Swanson said. "It's the right thing to do."

Larry Larsen, a junior vice commander with the American Legion and a senior vice commander in the VFW post, spoke to the crowd Monday about the importance of honoring soldiers of the past, as well as the present.

"Today, we visit the graves of our fallen soldiers," Larsen said. He added, "Support for the troops (currently overseas) has to mean more than a sticker on an SUV."

Beckett, before his reading of the fallen veterans, also asked community members to honor the unsung heroes of war -- the spouses, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of America's fighting men and women.

"Don't forget their loved ones," Beckett said.

The VFW presented the colors, played a rendition of "Taps" and rang forth a volley of gunfire during the 21-gun salute.

Larsen said the service -- and the community's attendance -- is a fitting sign of respect to the veterans from a grateful nation.

"To remember and act on their memory is the least we can do for veterans who said, 'I will die for strangers,'" Larsen said.

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