DANVILLE — There were thousands of Memorial Day activities across America over the weekend, ranging from gatherings of handfuls to mobs of thousands. Many were larger than Monday’s parade and memorial service in Danville, but it’s safe to say that none was more heartfelt.
After the village’s annual parade made its way from the town square to Memorial Park, several hundred people assembled at the Veterans’ Memorial to hear comments by featured speaker Rev. Tom Orr, a retired Methodist minister and Marine Corps veteran from Howard.
The ceremonies began with the raising of the flag by Boy Scout Troop 340 and playing of the national anthem by the Danville High School Band. Rev. Dennis Eggerton of Grace Brethren Church delivered an invocation, and then Rev. Orr was introduced by Commander Buck Laughrey of American Legion Post 650.
The inspiration for Orr’s speech came from a famous address to Congress made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in January of 1941 as America tottered on the brink of war. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech rallied Congress to ramp up American support of Great Britain’s war efforts. Less than a year later, the United States would join World War II, and more than 400,000 Americans would perish before its conclusion in 1945.
“This is a day of remembrance for those who gave their all so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy,” Orr said. “Since the first Decoration Day was held in 1868, 600,000 Americans have died in war. We give thanks to them and to their families who have sacrificed so much.”
The “four freedoms” enumerated by Roosevelt are the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, freedom from want and freedom from fear of tyranny.
“We are free to worship the god of our own choosing, and to gather and express our thoughts,” Orr said. “This great country has provided abundantly not only for us but for much of the world. Our freedoms have been protected by the brave men and women of our armed services, and let us never forget the high price that has been paid. Remember always that freedom is very, very costly.”
Following Orr’s address, the Danville High School Band played a medley of martial tunes, followed by a special presentation. Danville’s veterans memorial is inscribed with the names of the village’s war dead, and wooden pillars represent each of the Gold Star Mothers who have lost a son or daughter. Regina Quinn of the American Legion Post 650 Auxiliary presented a floral display to Gold Star Mother Judy Goare. Staff Sergeant Shamus Goare, a 1994 graduate of Danville High School, lost his life in Afghanistan in 2005 while taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The ceremonies ended with a 21-rifle salute by the Post 650 firing squad and the playing of “Taps.” Before the gathering broke up, everyone was asked to observe a minute of silence at 3 p.m. in memory of all American war dead.