Despite rain, service goes on
More than 15,000 members of Ray Wagner’s regiment lost their lives in battles from Asia to Africa.
The World War II and Korean War veteran said Monday that it was a privilege for him to celebrate Memorial Day.
“I do it for all those guys,” Wagner said after the Memorial Day celebration at the Craig Cemetery.
The 80-year-old Craig resident served in the color guard for Monday’s ceremonies.
Chilly temperatures and a slight drizzle didn’t keep a crowd of about 150 people from attending the memorial service.
In fact, as the names of the 542 veterans buried in Craig were read and the flags waved in a cold breeze, the crowd continued to grow.
The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 put on the Memorial Day ceremony.
“This day should remain sacred,” VFW Post Commander Ray Talkington told the crowd at the start of the ceremony.
Talkington gave a brief history of Memorial Day, from its start on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, N.Y., to the 1971 federal decision to make the holiday the last Monday in May. The holiday was moved to give everyone a three-day weekend.
Talkington said many veterans still think the change diminished the meaning of Memorial Day.
After Talkington spoke, Vic Beckett read the names of every veteran buried at the Craig Cemetery. Beckett has been reading the names on Memorial Day for more than 50 years.
On Monday, Beckett’s grandson Andrew Magas held an umbrella over him as he read.
When he finished reading the names, Beckett told the crowd it was important to remember the wives and mothers of soldiers as well as the soldiers themselves.
After the traditional reading of the names, this year’s service had an additional ceremony.
The VFW gave Spanish-American war veteran William F. Banister a military burial, something he didn’t receive when he died in 1921.
No members of Banister’s family attended, so his flag was presented to Donna Watkins of Craig.
“I’m deeply honored to do it,” Watkins said after the ceremony.
The flag will be forwarded to Banister’s family.
VFW and American Legion member Bill Harding said the ceremony was excellent, despite the weather.
“We do this to honor the veterans that have served and those who are serving now,” Harding said. “The community can’t do enough.”
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