The Morris Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by VFW Post 6049 reminded the community, as they gather with their family and friends for the holiday, to take time to remember those who died fighting for their country.
“Take a moment out of your family gathering to reflect on what we have because of the men and women who have fought, bled and gave their lives,” said Jerry Belt, commander of the Morris VFW, in his welcome speech.
The annual ceremony is usually held at the Grundy County Courthouse, but was moved to the Morris Community High School gym due to weather. Despite the rain, a crowd still gathered to remember those who have fallen.
Several leaders of the community spoke, recognizing those who have lost their lives in war.
Ken Buck, American Legion Post 294 commander, told the story of Marine Sgt. William Stacey of California, who was killed by an IED blast during his fourth deployment in Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 2012. Buck said Stacey wrote a letter in case of his passing, which Buck then read to the crowd.
“My death did not change the world,” Sgt. Stacey wrote. “It may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.”
Buck continued that everyone owed it to Stacey and all the other men and women who died defending their country to pay them back by remembering their families.
The keynote speaker shared the story of his son, his way of continuing to remember.
Jerry Terando, commander of the Morris Color Guard, lost his son Joshua, who was fighting in Iraq, on Nov. 10, 2005. He was shot while in pursuit of a sniper.
At his funeral, and still to this day, Joshua’s comrades continue to visit his parents.
“We lost a son; they lost a brother,” said Terando. “How do we thank these men and women who gave so much? How do we memorialize them? They set aside their families, friends, jobs and futures. They gave up their lives, before they lost them.”
The answer he said is “semper memor,” which means “always remember.” Always remember not just the deceased, but the wounded, those who have lost limbs, become disfigured, suffered traumatic injury or PTSD.
“Remember the burden they bore. Remember their families,” said Terando, who once concluded was given a standing ovation.
The ceremony was followed by a lunch given by the Morris VFW.