Hundreds of people packed the Washington riverfront for the annual Memorial Day Service Monday, May 28.

This year’s service was hosted by the Washington VFW Post 2661 and co-hosted by the American Legion Post 218.

Throughout the ceremony, speakers ended their speeches with a resounding “God Bless America!,” proving that like America, Washington bleeds red, white and blue.

Cheryl Pecka sang the national anthem to begin the program. Jo Ann Smith, president of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, led the Pledge of Allegiance and the Rev. Mike Boehm, pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, said the invocation.

Terry Sullentrup, commander of the VFW, presented the opening remarks and introduced the guest speaker.

The guest speaker was U.S. Army Col. Walt Hatcher (retired), Washington, who served 30 years in the U.S. Army including more than 15 years overseas.

Walt Hatcher

Hatcher reminded people of how Memorial Day was established first as Decoration Day five years after President Lincoln delivered the Gettysberg address and dedicated a memorial ground for soldiers killed in battle.

The idea of Decoration Day, he said, was to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers, adding that it’s still important to do so.

“I believe it’s more important that we have now a Memorial Day — a public tribute to the fallen,” he said.

He said Washington is lucky to have organizations who honor fallen soldiers.

“If you look at the composition of this group, service to country knows no race, or creed, or culture. Service to this country knows no status,” he said. “The common denominator of service to this country is just that  — service.”

Hatcher reflected on his 30 years of service, which included seven deployments. Five of his deployments were accompanied tours, with his family. He served one unaccompanied tour in Korea and another to Vietnam.

Now, there are soldiers who have been deployed to combat fields several times without their families.

Hatcher ended his speech by asking the group to keep all Armed Forces members in their thoughts and prayers.

Mayor Lucy

During her welcome, Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy spoke about her recent trip to Marbach am Neckar, Germany, and Paris, France.

She spoke about all the preparation that went into planning for the two-week trip.

She touched on the warm reception she received on her trip and compared her overseas trip with the overseas trip of the military men and women.

“Our military men and women willingly volunteer to pack up their lives for anywhere from six months to two years at a time. Unlike my reception at Marbach, they go knowing that their reception isn’t likely going to be warm, or welcoming,” she said.

“When they come home, they’re trying to catch up on missed birthdays and holidays, and other special events within their families that took place without them, and then, some of them don’t come home at all,” she said.

Lucy stressed the unlimited opportunities in America, all of which are secured by military men and women willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

During the ceremony, current military members were honored.

Don Hahne and Terry Lanwermeyer played Taps.

A remembrance of veterans in the VFW and American Legion who have passed away in the past year was held with a bell-ringing ceremony followed by a wreath drop in the river, rifle salute and a flag review by boats in the Missouri River.

George Emke closed the ceremony by reading a poem written in memory of S-Sgt. Richard E. Lauchstaedt, Washington, who was killed in action in France in 1944. The poem came from an issue of The Missourian in October 1945.

Emke ended with a closing prayer.

It was estimated that 500 people or more attended the ceremony.