Holiday event at Liberty Memorial remembers America’s war dead

Although a pounding rainstorm forced the annual Memorial Day observance to be moved inside the Liberty Memorial, it did little to dampen the spirit of remembrance that highlighted Monday’s ceremony.

About 300 people packed the J.C. Nichols Auditorium and paid tribute to the members of America’s armed services who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure current and future generations enjoy the fruits of freedom.

“We remember the American soldier. All of them. No matter what year, no matter what war,” said Mary Davidson Cohen, chairwoman of the Liberty Memorial Association. “They have presented us with the most precious gift, the gift of freedom, lest we forget.”

The program featured patriotic music performed by an American Legion band, presentations from elected officials and readings from letters and diary entries from service members and others that provided a glimpse into the ravages of combat.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver presented copies of recently approved federal legislation that was signed by President Barack Obama to create a World War I Centennial Commission that would lead the planning of commemorations in Kansas City and throughout the country in 2014.

Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, said it was important that the nation pauses each year to recognize those who fought to preserve liberty here in the United States and elsewhere.

“Veterans deserve to know that no matter how much time has passed, we promise that your service and sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Cleaver said.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, both Republicans, joined Cleaver in remembering those families who carry the extra burden of having relatives who were killed while defending the country.

Also Monday, Gold Star recognitions were presented to the mothers and relatives of five servicemen who were killed in recent military conflicts.

Earlier in the program, Don Redding, a former prisoner of war who served as a flight engineer in Italy in World War II, placed a chair cover in recognition of those servicemen who were either prisoners of war or were reported missing in action. Afterward, Redding said Monday’s event was important to remember those who served.

“We paid the terrific price for our freedom,” he said.