FULTON, Ill. — American Legion Post 402 in Fulton initiated their Memorial Day service a little early this year, giving a salute to all of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
It has remained tradition for post 402 to host a series of honorary ceremonies in the days leading up to Memorial Day, and this year it began Wednesday with the posting of more than 400 flags on the grave sites of fallen veterans.
“We put a flag out on every veteran’s grave no matter if they served in conflict or not,” American Legion Post 402 commander Bill Blecha said.
Unlike Veteran’s Day, which honors veterans of all kinds, alive or dead, Memorial Day often has a solemn undertone to it.
As American Legion Chaplain Gene Field read an exclusive Memorial Day prayer, the heads of fellow Legion members hung low as they recalled those fallen soldiers and all they had given.
Although the American Legion post is restricted to veterans who served during a time of active conflict, Thursday’s salute and the remainder of ceremonies to take place this weekend, was meant for all who committed themselves to their country.
“I wish we could open it (the post) up to more members, like those who served during the Cold War and other peace times,” Blecha said. “But at least we can honor them this way.”
The recognition will continue today as Legion members and other civilian volunteers place ceremonial flags along 14th Avenue and Fourth Street in Fulton.
By hoisting the flag throughout the city, Blecha hopes it will ignite community members to take part in the Memorial Day honors, no matter their military connections.
“People who would like to help don’t have to be veterans,” he said. “We relied heavily on WWII vets and Korean vets and now we’re relying on a small handful of us who are Vietnam vets so anybody that is interested can come assist us.”