DOVER — Remembering the sacrifices made by veterans — and assuring that future generations do the same — was a theme that rang through Sunday’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Ceremony.

Before a standing-room-only crowd, local dignitaries paid their respects to the fallen and urged everyone in attendance to never forget those who died for their country.

“We will not forget the great sacrifice ... the many have made for the great cause of freedom, and we do not take it lightly,” pastor David DeBerge said in his invocation.

In his remarks, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said families and children look to Memorial Day weekend as a time to enjoy cookouts and parades.

“But we must remember why we have Memorial Day. We must tell our kids why we have Memorial Day. This weekend, share with the next generation why we take this weekend to remember the fallen,” he said.

Steil noted that June 6 will mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when thousands of Allied troops stormed the French beaches to turn back the Nazis.

He reflected on what it must have been like for the thousands of men as they boarded the boats and approached the beaches.

“While we can’t imagine what was going through their heads, we know what was in their hearts ... the love of America, the love of family and the love of the ideals Americans believe in,” Steil said. “They freed Europe because of what was in their hearts: patriotism, love and honor.

“Freedom is not free. It comes with a tremendous cost. Men, women, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters sacrificed their lives to ensure that America remains free.”

Mary M. Kolar, secretary-designee for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, said that Memorial Day is the most solemn of the country’s national holidays.

She said coming together for ceremonies like the one on Sunday helps “to educate our fellow citizens who may not understand or grasp the gravity of the service of these brave men and women. ... By our example we are acknowledging the service of those who served.

“Let’s be united in our effort. We must always remember and never forget the sacrifices made through the centuries by our lost brothers and sisters,” she said. “Our veterans are the true heroes of the American experience. And they have given us the opportunity to make this century one filled with peace, liberty and freedom.”

Gov. Tony Evers said it is also important to remember the families of those who died in service to their country.

“Today, and always, we think of those who served and their families and friends,” he said. “Today we honor those who left their mark on history. We must maintain the legacy of those who fought and died. As the benefactors for their legacy, we must assure that their sacrifices are never forgotten.”

The ceremony included a fly-over by biplanes from the Commemorative Air Force of Waukesha, as well as a POW/MIA ceremony and recognition of all branches of the armed forces.

Wreaths were laid in recognition of the fallen, and Vietnam veterans recreated the Battlefield Cross, consisting of a rifle, helmet, boots and dog tags.

In his benediction, DeBerge said, “I can tell you today, America is worth living for, and America is worth dying for. ... Have faith and courage to look to the future. Our greatest weapon is love.”

The ceremony closed with a rifle salute and the sounding of “Taps.”

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