As the colors were presented to open the Memorial Day Service at the Osage Community Centre Monday, tears clouded the eyes of a few veterans while others stood at attention with ear-to-ear smiles.
The service was held to remember all of the men and women who lost their lives fighting for freedom, honor the ones who survived the battles of years past and pray for the ones who continue to fight today.
Each of the five branches of the armed services was represented at the service where more than 150 friends and family members of veterans gathered to celebrate.
For many it was an emotional service.
Mary Gieselmann of Millersville, Mo., held tightly the flag that was draped across the coffin of her father, Mack Estes, a World War II Army Air Corps veteran, who died in April.
The Cape Girardeau Municipal Band played a medley of the anthems for the five branches of service. As each anthem was played, veterans stood and the audience erupted in applause.
As the army anthem played Gieselmann stood with her father's flag in her arms and a tear in her eye.
"I thought of all of the times my dad would come to this service and all of the times I never came," Gieselmann said. "I was a child of the Vietnam age, a part of the 'Hell no, we won't go' group. My dad and I went 'round and 'round, but I know now what he was talking about."
Gieselmann said the service was especially emotional because of the events of Sept. 11.
"Before 9-11 at our house we had kind of taken our patriotism, our country, our freedoms for granted," she said. "Now nothing is taken for granted."
For many residents of Cape Girardeau, the service is part of a yearly tradition.
Karla Kiefner and her husband, Matt Kiefner, a major in the Marine Corps Reserve, bring their two daughters, Paige, 9, and Jacquelyn, 6, to the service each year.
"We want it to be second nature to them," Karla Kiefner said.
State Rep. Rod Jetton, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, was the speaker for the service. He told the crowd Memorial Day is a lot more than roasting hot dogs and having family barbecues.
"It is so important that we never miss a chance to honor the men and women that gave us the chance to be here today," he said.
Jetton, who served on active duty in Somalia and Bosnia, thanked the veterans for the commitment they made to serve the United States and defend freedom.
"Freedom is not free," he said. "Many veterans gave their lives so that we might live freely today."
He also told the veterans they are among the real heroes of America.
"The past few years America has forgotten what a hero is," he said. "Mark McGwire is a sports star, Michael Jordan is a great basketball player. The real hero crashes his plane into the ground and kills himself so that other people will survive. A real hero runs up the stairs when everyone else is running down. A real hero gives his life so that we might live."
The service ended with taps, a gun salute and a prayer by Fletcher Chasteen, chaplain of VFW Post 3838, for the more than 1 million young Americans serving in the war on terrorism.
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