Katiemarie Owen has seen evidence of the price paid by those who have served in the armed forces.
Her father Stephen Owen, who served 23 years in the Navy, 11 of them at sea, is now 100 percent service-connected disabled, exposed to chemicals that have caused damage to his skin, lungs, intestines, joints and brain.
She told those gathered at the Memorial Day ceremony of Navy Club Ship 40 at Navy Park Monday that her father has seen things he’s never discussed.
Because some of his conflict assignments in Desert Storm, Desert Shield and the early Gulf War were top-secret missions never been recognized by the government, she said, he’s been neglected by the country he served.
Later as a civilian, he once had a boss who refused to shake his hands because chemical exposure during his military service had made his skin crack and bleed.
“I’m very lucky because our family has a strong bond in keeping my father as healthy as he can be and finding a way to combat the pain, anger and depression,” Katiemarie said.
“I feel hurt at times because he hurts. But he does not say a word to me — just smiles and tells me all will be fine and never quits,”
Hers was perhaps the most moving speech of the day, which saw more than a half dozen Memorial Day ceremonies across the county.
The day of public honor began at the harbor, where a brisk wind snapped flags and veterans displayed snappy salutes.
Three members of Carthage College’s Crimson Quartet — John Kryl, Mike Anderle and Mick Huff — performed three songs, including “America the Beautiful.” The quartet has sang at a number of Navy Club ceremonies, but this was their last, as the men are graduating this year.
A response boat from the Coast Guard Kenosha Station lowered a wreath of flowers on the harbor waves to commemorate those who dropped anchor for the last time, and attendees from the crowd were invited to take a carnation to place upon the waters.
Then came the rainRain pelted those gathered for the ceremony at Green Ridge Cemetery.
Herschel Ryales of American Legion Post 21 told the gathering that grave markers of those who sacrificed their lives while defending America each had a story to tell.
“The numbers of our fallen heroes are not just statistics. They are real people, with real families, who lived in real communities,” Ryales said. “We can best honor their sacrifice by remembering their families who have lost so much. ... Nobody can replace these fallen heroes.”
Scherel Heckel came to honor several relatives who served in the military, including her father, World War II veteran Charles Krack, who is buried at Green Ridge.
“I used to come to Green Ridge every year, but it’s three years since I’ve been here. Now we try to go to (memorial ceremonies in) other places.”
War dead recalledPaul Fredericksen, post commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7308 told those gathered at St. Mark’s Cemetery that Memorial Day was not to remember wars, but those who gave their all to ensure freedoms would be passed on to the next generations.
The post was assisted at the ceremony by the Kenosha Military Academy Saber Team, Boy Scout Troop 505 and Girl Scout troops 7293 and 9266.
The Scouts accompanied Brenda Engles and Sue Holt, great-great-granddaughters of James Taaffee, to lay a bouquet of flowers at a veterans monument.
The monument honors Taaffee, who fought in the War of 1812, and eight other Civil War veterans who are interred there.
Honoring the deadThe Kenosha Area Vietnam Veterans ceremony at Library Park honored the 45 servicemen from Kenosha who were casualties of that war.
Tim Green, captain of the KAVV, spoke of Staff Sgt. James Lee VanBendegom, whose remains were returned to his family last year.
“Forty-seven years we waited for his return. We still hope that David Leet, too, will return,” said Green referring to the last Vietnam veteran from Kenosha listed as missing in action.