Every hour, on the hour, from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, there was an opportunity to remember those who died while serving their country.
The numerous Memorial Day events in Kenosha, Pleasant Prairie and Somers drew hundreds — from small children dressed in red, white and blue to aged World War II veterans in ceremonious head cover — to hear the playing of taps, witness the laying of memorial wreaths, and to bow their heads in prayer.
More than 200 attended the 9 a.m. service held by Navy Club Ship 40 at Navy Park alone.
“Our parents and grandparents brought us to these types of events every year,” said Anne Kelly, of Kenosha, who attended the service with her sister Mary Huissen. “This is the way we were brought up. It’s what you do on Memorial Day.”
Their late grandfather Alex Werner was a member of the Navy Club. They were joined at the event by their uncle, Edward Werner, a retired member of the Coast Guard.
A bell tolled during the service once each in memory of the four Navy Club members who died during the last year, as well as once for those who went before them and those whose fate is still unknown.
A memorial wreath was cast into the harbor, and those in attendance were able to memorialize a loved one by throwing carnations into the water.
Green Ridge Cemetery
Barbara Wollert, of Kenosha, brought her granddaughters Elena Viesca and Ella Evermon, both 12, to the 10 a.m. service at Green Ridge Cemetery and hoped to take in another service after.
“I just said, ‘You know what? It’s Memorial Day, and this is what we should do,’” Wollert said.
Elena said she wanted “to remember everyone who died and served for us.”
“Our lives would not be the same if they didn’t,” she said.
Commander-elect Ron Hessil, of American Legion Post 21, led the service at Green Ridge, which included Harborside Academy students reading 222 names of Kenosha County military who died in the last year.
“If you are not a Gold Star family member, a battle buddy, friend or relative of a fallen hero, all you have to do is look around and you will see their legacy,” Hessil said. “It is us. Americans gathered in a free society, unified with the common purpose of honoring uncommon bravery.”
Hessil shared the stories of Frank Luke, the first pilot to receive the Medal of Honor, and Sharon Lane, the only female nurse to be killed by enemy fire during the Vietnam War.
“The heroes we remember today are not exclusive to any gender, race or religion,” Hessil said. “They are a diverse group wedded to the common principle that America is worth dying for.”
He asked those in attendance to also remember Gold Star families.
“As we observe Memorial Day every year, these families remember their fallen loved ones every day,” he said.
Becky and Ash Noble, of Kenosha, brought their three children, Amelia, 9, Grant, 12, and Lauren, 14, to the 11 a.m. service at Sunset Ridge Memorial Park in Somers. Becky said they have chosen a different service to attend each year for the last several years.
“We just want to make sure we remember what this holiday is for,” Becky said. “It’s not such about cooking out. We’ll do that later. But first, we do this.”
Grant said when he “looks at the world around” him he can live “without worry” because of the soldiers who fought for his independence and freedom.
Randolph Armstrong, a senior military instructor at Kenosha Military Academy, read the oath for commissioned officers, which calls on them “to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
“Ordinary men and women leave their lives behind, get into harm’s way and sometimes perish, in defense of its ideas,” he said.
“To me, the heart of the shared experience begins with and resides forever in the oath of office,” Armstrong said. “It is common ground between those who lay here, and elsewhere, and those of us still standing.”
Cedric Mayhall, 25, walked to the service in Library Park hosted by the Kenosha Area Vietnam Veterans.
He sat alone on a bench at the outskirts of the crowd, saying he wanted the veterans in attendance to have the closer seats.
“I have a lot of respect for them,” Mayhall said. “They put their life on the line to fight for our freedom.”
It was the first time he ever attended a Memorial Day service.
“I have family members who are veterans and who are still enlisted,” said Mayhall. “I just want to do something to honor them.”
Kurt Ulik and Judy Flood, of Kenosha, arrived at Library Park earlier and decided to send “thank you” texts to family and friends who have served in the military.
The service in Library Park included the reading of names of the fallen, and a POW/MIA ceremony.