Faint cheers of a girls' softball game rose uphill to the veterans memorial wall in Jackson's Brookside Park on Saturday morning as veterans, auxiliary members, Boy Scouts and families walked between 129 burial flags of deceased U.S. veterans, each pole with its own nameplate.
The unrestrained shouts reflected the liberty being celebrated at the memorial, where guest speaker Lt. Col. Glenn Schneider of Cape Girardeau discussed soldiers who have given their lives so that Americans can continue to enjoy this country's freedoms, which include sporting events.
"I can give you numbers for each major conflict in this century, but the numbers are large and faceless; behind each number is a story, a family, a person," Schneider said.
According to Schneider, who served in Desert Storm, there were 78,778 POWs/MIAs in World War II, 8,100 in the Korean War and 1,907 in the Vietnam War. During Desert Storm, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher was shot down over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991. He was first listed as missing, but his status was recently changed to missing/captured. Latest intelligence reports indicate he may be alive and imprisoned in Baghdad.
"We owe a debt that cannot be repaid. The words 'thank you' don't seem worthy of those sacrifices," Schneider said. "We can think about what they sacrificed. We can raise awareness. We can remind others that what they have done, and still do, is precious. We can remember them."
About 100 people turned out for the event. Several groups participated in the 2002 POW-MIA Remembrance walk and ceremony sponsored by Jackson's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10495 and VFW Post 10495 Auxiliary. Those present included all branches of the military, Boy Scout Troop 311 of Jackson, the VFW color guards from Jackson and Cape Girardeau, the American Legion color guards from Jackson and Cape Girardeau and a few church groups.
The walk began at the Jackson City Pool and ended at the memorial in Brookside Park.
Cadet Jamie Barnes of the Air Force ROTC sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America." Trumpeters Sarah Luehrs and Steffan Troxel from Jackson High School played taps.
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