Adorned with over 2,300 American flags, each representing a Reading veteran who has passed away, the town common became the site of a thoughtful and solemn Memorial Day ceremony of remembrance on Monday. Given the current situation, the service was brief and only attended by the participants. It was also aired live on RCTV and streamed online.
Veterans’ Service Officer Kevin Bohmiller opened the service stating a goal to “celebrate, honor, and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country so that we may enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.” Bohmiller reminded listeners of the 53 Reading residents who gave their lives while on duty in the military whose names are posted on a plaque on the common’s flagpole.
Town Manager Robert LeLacheur continued stating that he is “full of an admiration and thankfulness for which there are no real words” for those who gave their lives for our country. He compared remembering them to lessons relearned in the current COVID-19 situation, recalling lessons learned from veterans he knew growing up in the years following World War II. “The pandemic gives a new appreciation of how ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things.”
Brigadier General Father Richard Erikson, USAF retired, gave a brief, but poignant remembrance. “What we do today is solemn, reverent, and necessary.” Father Erikson began. He then shared a story from when he was on duty performing patriot missions in Iraq.
Sharing about the best way to remember our fallen veterans, Father Erickson suggested a quote from President Harry Truman, “Our debt . . . can never be repaid” Father Erikson however challenged, “Are you living a life worthy of their sacrifice?” He commented further, quoting President Ronald Reagan, “Surely with our actions, we must strive to keep faith with them . . . their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply.”
Father Erikson concluded, “May the souls of our fallen heroes rest in peace and may our thoughts, words, and actions honor their last full measure of devotion.
The ceremony concluded with the playing of “Taps” and a roll call of Reading veterans who have passed away since last Memorial Day.