Henry Segura and Roque Riojas are two World War II veterans who are never shy about showing their patriotism.
So there the two former combat infantrymen stood Saturday morning in the cool, wind-whipped cemetery in western Kansas City, Kan., and paid honor for their fallen comrades by slowly saluting the new Veterans Memorial at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery.
“This is for our deceased veterans and those who lost their lives in combat,” said Riojas, 90, who lives in the Rosedale neighborhood in Kansas City, Kan., and was a member of 34th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. “It is an honor that we who are still living can do this.”
The men were part of a small gathering who attended the dedication ceremony and monument blessing. The five granite monuments and flags pay tribute to those deceased and living service men and women who served in the five branches of the Armed Forces.
A Catholic mass led by the Revs. Jeremiah Spence and Gary Pennings preceded the dedication ceremony.
“For those who lost loved ones, it is a time for sadness and remembering, of prayer and consolation,” said Pennings, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. “For others, it is a visible reminder of the ultimate sacrifice of so many men and women who were called to serve their country.”
Segura, who also lives in Rosedale, served in the U.S. Army in the southwest Pacific and was part of the occupation of Japan. He said he was pleased to take part in the ceremony, which also featured members of the Knights of Columbus.
“This looks great and it is an honor to be here,” Segura said. He and Riojas are active in local vets organizations and have attended other military memorial dedications.
The monument in Kansas City, Kan., stands 8 feet tall and is 40 feet in length. The granite tablets feature various military depictions of soldiers in combat and training with tanks, planes and ships. The backs of the tablets have etched insignia of the military branches. The flags of each branch also are displayed.
Construction on the monument began in July 2011 and the final installation of the tablet occurred in May, said Robert W. Chenoweth, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, which constructed the memorial through donations.
Low walls around the south side of the monument area have benches for visitors and there is space on the granite slabs for the names of 700 service men and women to be etched, Chenoweth said.
To be named on the memorial, veterans must show proof of their service and pay $200. It is open to all veterans.
At the close of the ceremony, Pennings said it was important to remember those who served, their families and those who currently serve protecting the nation.
“My prayer is that this new veterans memorial will stand as a fitting tribute to those who have served our country ... both living and deceased who gave or risked their lives in the call to duty to serve this great nation,” he said. “We pray also that we hear the call for peace.”