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Kansans honor, remember this Memorial Day weekend

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, May 27, 2012, at 11:52 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, May 23, 2014, at 8:29 a.m.

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Memorial Day activities

Here is a list of scheduled activities observing Memorial Day weekend:

Wichita

•  Veterans Memorial Park, Central and Greenway in downtown Wichita, 8 a.m. Monday. The Air Capital Detachment of the Marine Corps League will hold its annual Memorial Day Ceremony. The ceremony will include laying of wreaths at the U.S. Marine Memorial, the Kansas Korean Veterans Memorial and others. Veterans, their families and the public are invited to attend and participate. Phil Griffee, commandant of the Air Capital Detachment, will officiate.

•  Lakeview Cemetery and Funeral Home, 12100 E. 13th St., 11 a.m. Monday. Service includes military flyover. Cemetery will have an Avenue of Flags.

•  Resthaven Cemetery, 11800 W. Kellogg, 11 a.m. Monday. Memorial Day events begin with a flyover by the Oklahoma Air National Guard. A service will follow with speakers U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. The Jayhawk Wing of the Commemorative Air Force also will perform a flyover at about 11:45 a.m.

•  Greenwood Cemetery, 6231 W. 47th St. South. Service at 11 a.m. Monday. Military flyover of four F-16s. During the service, there will be a folding of the American flag and an explanation of what each fold means.

Augusta

•  Elmwood Cemetery, Memorial Day service, 9 a.m. Monday , 501 E. 12th Ave. in Augusta. Service includes presentation of colors and wreath. Guest speaker is U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo. In case of inclement weather, a shortened program will be held at the National Guard Armory in Augusta.

Winfield

•  Kansas Veterans Cemetery, service begins at 10 a.m. Monday at 1208 N. College. Command Sgt. Maj. John J. Ryan, Kansas National Army Guard, will deliver the Memorial Day address. Music will be provided by the Winfield Community Band. Military honors and ceremonial wreaths will be presented by American Legion Post 10 and VFW Post 3544 and their auxiliaries. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs as seating is limited. For more information, call the Kansas Veterans Cemetery at Winfield 620-229-2287.

Garnett

•  Gov. Sam Brownback is the featured speaker at the American Legion Post No. 48 and Garnett Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 6397 Memorial Day service. The service begins at 10 a.m. Monday at the Garnett Cemetery, northeast of Garnett off of NE Neosho Road.

This Memorial Day weekend, throughout Kansas, there will be flyovers and flags.

Graves will be decorated.

And, for a moment, people will give pause to remember the veterans who sacrificed their lives.

In cities like Wichita and smaller towns like Lincoln and Larned, residents were busy rededicating memorials, unveiling new ones or planning future monuments all with the same purpose in mind: to remember those who served and those who died.

It happens about every 50 years, said Jay Price, director of the public history program at Wichita State University: Old memorials are refurbished, new ones are built. It is all about building a public memory.

“As people get older, they want to have things permanently in place,” said Tom Schmidt, past state commander of the Sons of the Union Veterans.

In Wichita on Saturday, the Sons of the Union Veterans were scheduled to help re-dedicate the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Pavilion in Maple Grove Cemetery, near Ninth and Hillside. The memorial is rare in that it honors both white and African-American Union veterans.

In Lincoln, residents planned to dedicate a new tombstone to Civil War veteran Edward Simmons, who died in 1883.

In Larned, residents there continue to work on fundraising for building the Pawnee County Veterans Memorial, recognizing veterans of all wars.

“For some of them, it is too late,” said Terry Harris, part of the project in Larned. “We need to thank these guys.”

Lincoln

For Tracee Hamilton, her passion for history is what drew her to uncovering Edward Simmons’ gravesite.

Hamilton, a sports columnist for the Washington Post, grew up in Lincoln – just northwest of Salina — and has fond memories of a childhood spent going to area cemeteries with her grandmother.

For several years, she has researched every edition of every paper in Lincoln County. She has gathered more than 13,000 obituaries. One of them was Edward Simmons. And that led her to the tragic story of the Simmons family.

Edward’s son, Joshua, drowned in the Saline River in July 1878. He had been riding a horse and leading another when he lost his footing in the river and became entangled. He left a wife and five children.

Two months later, there was a diphtheria outbreak and two of Joshua’s children and Edward’s wife, Rebecca, died.

Edward Simmons died on Jan. 21, 1883. During the Civil War, at age 58, he was mustered in to the 37th Volunteer Infantry, known as the Graybeard Regiment. While serving, he lost his left leg when gangrene set in following an infection. He was discharged in 1865.

In 1876, the Simmons family homesteaded in Lincoln County. After more than a century, there was no family left in the area to recognize his grave.

“This was a man who lost a leg in the service of his country,” Hamilton said. “He then came out to Kansas as a pioneer. The idea that he was in an unmarked grave was unacceptable.”

That was expected to change Saturday when Simmons was set to receive a proper burial ceremony. Civil War re-enactors, historians and Freedom Riders were expected to attend a Grand Army of the Republic ceremony near Lincoln to honor Simmons and place wreaths at a new tombstone now decorating his grave.

Pawnee County

Call it patriotism. Call it “doing the right thing.” It all comes down to honor and respect.

“I grew up in the Army,” said Terry Harris of Larned.

“I watched my dad go off to Vietnam. And, luckily, I watched him come back again. He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I never remember him being thanked.”

That’s one reason, Harris said, he wanted to be part of the project to build a memorial for all Pawnee County veterans.

Harris, 56, said he remembers going to school in the 1970s when it wasn’t hip to be patriotic. The feeling of the country is different now, Harris said. It is different even from a decade ago, shortly after 9/11.

The $170,000 Pawnee County memorial is incorporating a piece of steel from the World Trade Center’s south tower. The memorial will also be decorated with a 4-foot-tall bronze eagle.

“This is something that should have been done years ago,” he said. “We’re hoping it is not too late. It is just now, people’s hearts are in a different place.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com

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