DECATUR — Using the words of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as a precursor, Chris Brodnicki reminded an attentive crowd Monday at Fairview Park about the true meaning of Memorial Day.
"We are assembled here today to pay respect to the valiant men and women that have given their lives in defense of our lives," said Brodnicki, the general manager of the Decatur Civic Center and a U.S. Navy veteran.
"... It is their sacrifices that enabled us all to gather here today in remembrance of them," he said.
Brodnicki was the guest speaker during the Veterans Assistance Commission of Macon County's Memorial Day ceremony at the park's main pavilion.
It was one of several observances of the holiday in Decatur.
Not too long after that event ended, another ceremony was held in front of the Korean War Memorial at Graceland/Fairlawn Cemetery, 2091 N. Oakland Ave.
Temperatures in the low 90s didn't stop hundreds from attending either event, and the sentiment of honoring the millions of military personnel who have lost their lives was strong with all who came.
Longtime friends Wally Bailey and Karen Shafer were among those who took part in the Korean War ceremony, which was hosted by the Charles Parlier Chapter 24 of the Korean War Veterans Association.
Bailey, a Decatur native who now lives in Hillsboro, was in town to put flowers on his wife's grave. She died in 2009, he said, and has been interred within the cemetery's mausoleum. While neither he nor his wife served in the military, Bailey said he's attended the ceremony in past years and believes in the importance of what Memorial Day represents.
"And we decorate the graves," he said. "That's what my mother did, so that's what we do."
In addition to guest speakers, both ceremonies were rife with a variety of patriotic tributes. Various veterans groups, auxiliaries and related groups took turns placing memorial wreaths along the pavilion and the memorial.
With American flags waving in the breeze, attendees also were led in prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance, "The Star Spangled Banner" and renditions of "God Bless America." Both events also featured reverent moments of silence and salutes to the tune of "Taps" led by the Macon County Honor Guard.
The keynote speaker at the Korean War ceremony was Retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Adam Troxell. Pushing back against a common belief that the four-year war is the "forgotten war," Troxell made it clear to the veterans and community members he addressed that their sacrifices have not and will not be forgotten.
"As far as I'm concerned, where you and I stand today is hallowed ground," he said to a round of applause.
Other local Memorial Day events that took place Monday included a ride through Decatur sponsored by the Decatur Bicycle Shoppe, a 1-and 3-mile fun run hosted by Fleet Feet Sports, a picnic at Salem Baptist Church and a service at Greenwood Cemetery.
David Freyling, chairman of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Macon County, said he hopes those who attended a Memorial Day service take the time to educate younger generations on what the observance is all about.
This year marked the 150th recognition of Memorial Day, which was first established as "Decoration Day" on May 30, 1868. Looking toward the next 150 years, Freyling said it will be up to today's youth to keep the memories of past and future generations, who have served and died, alive.
"What we need to do is have people come out like they did today and bring their children with them," he said. "This is the main thing. That's where the children learn."