Beginning with a flyover by the Black Pilots Association and ending with the playing of Taps, a small group of military veterans and their families gathered Sunday to pay tribute to those who have been killed while serving their country.
In between, Civil War re-enactors from the Second Arkansas Infantry and Seventh Arkansas Light Artillery saluted the dead and survivors with cannon and musket fire and the Ladies in Black, who accompany the re-enactors, presented their own tribute, walking behind the Veterans Memorial and laying roses on its top. Colorful wreaths representing each war were carried through an honor guard made up of members of Knights Templar, a Masonic group that was making its first appearance at the annual memorial service.
The annual memorial service at Graceland Cemetery was sponsored by Hearin-Connolly Post 32 of the American Legion and recognized veterans from the Revolutionary War through the current conflicts in the Middle East.
“There’s not a day that goes by that we should not sing the praises of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said. “They gave their lives so that we all might share in this thing we call democracy.”
King said there are 6,000 veterans living in Jefferson County.
“We can never forget what they’ve done, the blood they spilled, the sacrifices they made to preserve peace and happiness here,” he said. “We owe so many so much, and thank you for what you’ve done.”
American Legion member Robert Rhinehart discussed each war that American has been involved in, starting with the Colonial Wars, which he said made “America a nation.”
Rhinehart moved on to the Revolutionary War, where 1 percent of the population of the country, or about 6,000 people, served. Today, he said, that 1 percent would equal 3.15 million people.
Moving next to the War of 1812, Rhinehart described it as “the second war for independence,” and said that war sparked the beginning of special forces groups like the Army Rangers.
Regarding the Civil War, he said more than 600,000 were killed or wounded, roughly two and-a-half percent of the population of the country. Translating that figure to today’s population, the total would be 5.5 million people.
Rhinehart’s wife, Barbara, carried the wreath designating those killed in the Spanish-American War because her grandfather fought in that war.
That same grandfather also saw service in World War I as a combat chaplain. Rhinehart said 115,000 were killed in that war.
Before he carried the wreath signifying World War II, Rhinehart, who fought in that war, asked for a show of hands of people in the crowd who were also veterans of the war. Only one other hand was raised.
After wreaths for the Korean War, the Vietnam War and what Rhinehart called the “Middle East” period, the final wreath representing Americans missing in action or prisoners of war was brought forward.