BLOOMFIELD, MO (KFVS) - The national anthem rang out as countless American flags waved in the wind at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield Monday.
Hundreds of people were there for a somber, heartfelt salute to servicemen and women who have passed away during the annual Memorial Day ceremony.
"Your presence here today is a tribute to those lost troops and to their families," said cemetery director Tammy Smith. "It is a way to say thank you and remember their courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and their integrity."
The keynote speaker was retired marine Colonel Jack Jackson who shared memories of going to a marine's house to let their family know their loved one did not make it back alive.
"The first time the wife locked the door, as if to say, 'if I don't let you in, I don't have to put my hand on that tombstone,'" Jackson said. "The second time I had to be on casualty assistance the lady who had two little ones just started beating on our commanding officer and started screaming at him: 'This wouldn't of happened if it hadn't been for you.' Neither one of them meant it, but that is a little bit of the pain and I know many of you carry today."
Army veteran Gary Kitchen also narrated a remembrance during the ceremony for POW's and soldiers killed in action.
Five veterans, one from each branch of the armed services, stood around a circular dining table with a white cloth as Kitchen described the significance of the place setting, such as the slice of lemon and salt of the plates to symbolize the bitter fate of a veteran not returning home.
"The glasses are inverted," Kitchen said as the five veterans flipped them over. "They can not toast with us today. Maybe tomorrow if we remember. The faded picture on the table is a reminder that they will be missed and remembered always by their families."
Denson L. Boner Jr. buried his father at the veteran cemetery last September. His dad served in the air force during the Vietnam War, and was a seabee in the Navy reserves.
"I'm very proud that my dad's name is represented here to show his dedication to service," he said.
Boner's dad and uncle were bricklayers and volunteered to build a memorial wall behind the Stars and Stripes museum nearby. the veterans cemetery.
"It's a worthy contribution," Boner said. "My uncle as well served in Vietnam. They both have deep feelings for the military and the veterans park. It was not a second thought to do that work."
Jackson finished his speech by saying he saw many people searching for a specific name but that all veterans share something in common.
"I see a head bow, I see a tear, I see fingers lightly touch what is engraved on the stone," Jackson said. "The bottom line is they gave us the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And they willingly gave their freedom so we could have all of ours."