The Memphis community enjoyed a warm, sunny Monday morning for the celebration of the 78th Annual Memorial Day Service on the lawn of the Scotland County Courthouse.
The Wallace W. Gillespie Memorial Post #4958, joined by the Memphis Community Players hosted the event. Spectators gathered on the west side of the city square to pay their respects at the war memorial and to listen to featured speaker, Veteran Larry Gieseke.
Born in Springfield, Gieseke, the son of a World War II veteran, entered the Army National Guard prior to graduating high school. In 1967 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as part of the Mobile Riverine Force, a joint effort with the U.S. Army in Vietnam creating mobile infantry and artillery units utilizing Navy river craft.
Following his military service, Larry returned to Missouri and spent 20 years as a computer consultant traveling across the U.S. working with clients such as Mastercard, Citicorp, Anheuser Busch, Dow Chemical and SBC Telecommunications.
In 1998 Larry moved to Memphis in advance of his retirement. He now calls a ranch north of Milan home with his wife Linda.
“We are here today to honor and pay respect to the men of Scotland County who were killed by the enemies of the United States of America,” he said. “These men were the best of their generations. Heroism cannot be seen until a time of crisis is at a hand. When that time came, these men answered the call, even when it meant their death.”
He compared these men to the shepherds of the Bible, who were called up to protect the flock.
“All of us owe these men much,” he told the crowd. “How can we repay them?”
Gieseke suggested payback in the form of community service. He proposed that Americans can honor their debt to those who fought and died for the country by being useful citizens, finding work in vocational fields, volunteering to help the sick and the elderly and by simply striving to keep the Republic alive and healthy by being well-informed and responsible voters.
“If we stay calm and use logic and reason, we will make decisions that will allow the great experiment known as the United States of America, to function well for the benefit of current and future generations.”
Pastor Sonny Smyser offered the closing prayer for the service. He cited John 15:13, noting there is no greater love than for one to lay down their life for their fellow comrades.
“Let us never forget those who served and came home in a box, those who came home in pieces,” he said. “Let us never forget those who truly have been to Hell and back in our service.”