By Ed Moreth 

VFW celebrates real Memorial Day


Ed Moreth

IN MEMORY – Jim Gillibrand of VFW Post 3596 places a flag at the gravesite of Gerald McCartney during the post's Memorial Day services at Plains Cemetery.

The Memorial Day picnics and parties were over, but the men and women of VFW Post 3596 wanted to make sure the real reason for the annual commemoration wasn't overlooked, which is why they continue to conduct a ceremony on May 30, the original Memorial Day.

"The Monday holiday is an observance day so everybody can have a three-day weekend. We want people to know the real reason of Memorial Day and that's to pay respect to veterans who lost their lives," said retired Air Force veteran Jimmie Allison, commander of Post 3596 in Plains.  

Only a dozen people from the public showed up for the ceremony at Plains Cemetery last Thursday, but that didn't  stop the veterans of Post 3596 from honoring those military members who died serving their country.

"As long as two comrades survive – so long will the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States render tribute to our heroic dead," said Jim Gillibrand, the post adjutant who led the cemetery ceremony this year at the gravesite of Gerald E. McCartney, a Navy veteran who passed away in 2017.

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"On this day, forever separated to our heroic dead, we are assembled once again to express sincere reverence," he said. Gillibrand is an Army veteran who has given the Memorial Day service numerous times and still gets a little choked up. "I used to get pretty emotional because I was talking about people who gave their lives for our freedom and our country," said Gillibrand.

Once Gillibrand was done speaking, Gary Jensen, a Navy vet, laid a small wreath on McCartney's grave, followed by Navy veteran Charles "Oly" Oelschlader, who placed a white carnation. Larry Smith, an Air Force veteran, put a red carnation down. Nora Verpoorten of the VFW Auxiliary also laid a carnation and Gillibrand placed a small U.S. flag at the gravesite, followed by a prayer by the post chaplain, Otto Otnes.

Memorial Day was originally established as Decoration Day shortly after the Civil War to honor those who perished in service to the country. It was changed to Memorial Day in 1967 and eventually was switched from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

Following the ceremony at the cemetery, Allison and VFW member Joe Eisenbrandt took the cemetery flag from its half-staff position back to the top. Each year, Kim and Margaret McNeil of Plains purchase new American and POW/MIA flags for the cemetery. This year, they also purchased the Navy flag. Bede Frye, Brittany Cook, Denise Barton and John Lemro paid for the Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marine Corps flags at the cemetery. Barton also helped pay for the POW/MIA flag. All flag donors are Plains residents.

The cemetery service lasted just over 30 minutes and when complete the group moved to the Sanders County Fair bridge, where Allison continued the ceremony. Oelschlader then tossed a biodegradable wreath into the Clark Fork River to commemorate the sea services - the Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps. To end the hour-long ceremony, Eisenbrandt played Taps on the electronic bugle.

Ed Moreth

SANDERS COUNTY SHEIRFF Tom Rummel (center) joins veterans for a Memorial Day ceremony in Noxon last Thursday.


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