Memorial Day feature
FYI: A hardcopy of this entire story can be found in the Patriot Newspaper at your local American Legion Post, the Elks Lodge, chamber of commerce and in Mountain Home News office as well as various other retail stores in town.
The sound of "Taps" echoed across the flag-marked gravestones in Mountain Home, Pine and Prairie as hundreds of people gathered to remember America's fallen veterans during local Memorial Day observances.
Representatives with the American Legion posts in Mountain Home held three ceremonies during the Memorial Day weekend, continuing a tradition that dates back more than 150 years.
These veterans began the weekend in Prairie where a handful of people gathered at the Prairie Cemetery to honor the six veterans buried there.
"On Memorial Day, we commemorate and celebrate with humble reverence the memory of absent comrades, all of whom epitomize and gave true meaning to the words valor, sacrifice, loyalty and perseverance," said Jack Schafhausen, American Legion vice commander for the Department of Idaho. "Yet while we revere and cherish the memory of those who have come before, we are reminded to do everything within our power to support our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen currently serving.
"Simply put, we owe our fallen comrades a debt that can never be repaid," Schafhausen added. "Because of them, our lives are free, and because of them, our nation lives on."
At the same time, each veteran deserves and is entitled to receive adequate and proper medical care and compensation for the wounds, injuries or illnesses they sustained in connection with their military service, he emphasized.
To honor the memory of the nation's fallen warriors, it's the duty of each American to carry on their legacy for generations to come, Schafhausen said.
"We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow have an awareness and understanding of whom it is they should likewise honor and exactly why they should honor them," he said. "Let every deed and act of each of our days be guided by the memory of those who gave their lives for our future freedoms. May their sacrifice continue to inspire us and fill us with hope all the days of our lives."
On Monday morning, the American Legion posts held a similar observance in Mountain Home to honor the names of the veterans whose names are inscribed on 975 gravestones located across Mountain View Cemetery.
In addition to honoring the fallen, local veterans performed a small ceremony to honor former prisoners of war as well as those still listed as missing in action. An empty chair with a rifle and helmet posted nearby served as a physical symbol of the thousands of service members still unaccounted for from all the wars and conflicts in the nation's history.
"The veterans we pause to remember on Memorial Day are the patriots who left their homes and families when their county called," Schafhausen said. "They gave the last measure of devotion in defense of our freedom.
"We are committed to keeping the memory of their sacrifice for generations to come," he added.
Among those who paid this price were people like Capt. Francis "Piston" Imlay, a Gunfighter who died in a training accident while deployed overseas on March 28, 2012.
Among those who knew the captain was Col. Jefferson O'Donnell, commander of the 366th Fighter Wing, who spoke at Monday's ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery here.
"Those who knew him were inspired by his overwhelming kindness," O'Donnell said.
In 2015, officials at Mountain Home Air Force Base honored the captain by naming a street in his memory.
"Captain Imlay's memory, carried in the hearts of family and friends, gives meaning to the cost of freedom and liberty," the colonel said. "He paid the full measure of dedication in selfless service to our nation."
Throughout the nation's history, more than 1.2 million American military men and women have given their lives in service to their nation, according to the colonel.
"They sacrificed their tomorrows so we would have today," O'Donnell said. "For the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters... your fallen heroes have left an indelible mark in your lives that will never be erased."
The Memorial Day observances concluded Monday afternoon as veterans gathered at the Pine Cemetery in Pine. During his comments at the event, Schafhausen asked one question regarding the price paid by the nation's veterans: Was it worth it?
"This is a question, sometimes politically loaded, that is often asked of family members and war buddies of our fallen heroes," he said.
Schafhausen then shared a perspective on that question offered by Marine Gen. John Kelly, who lost his youngest son during combat operations in Afghanistan.
The only person that has the right to answer that question is the young man or woman who gave their life in service to this nation, the general stated.
"I believe what they would say is that they were doing what they wanted to do," Schafhausen said as he quoted the general. "They were where they wanted to be. It's not for us that survived to answer it. I think it's for those young people to answer, and I think they do answer it with their actions and obviously their lives."
Americans owe it to these fallen warriors to make the nation a greater place and one that honors their sacrifices and epitomizes the ideals in the Constitution.
The American Legion will remain proud of the selfless sacrifices of the more than one million men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, Schafhausen said.
Instead of asking whether the price they paid was worth it, the response Americans should have comes down to four words -- "make it worth it," he added.