Memorial Day ceremony honors the fallen

The Honor Guard observes a moment of silence. Tina L. Scott photo.


A beautiful blue sky with warm temperatures and breezes made the perfect weather for the annual Memorial Day ceremony held at the Veterans Memorial in St. Francis Cemetery in Merrill on Monday, May 27, 2024. The ceremony was a combined program led by VFW Post 1638 and supported by members of the American Legion, DAV, AMVETS, Auxiliaries, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Knights of Columbus. In advance of the ceremony, VFW Post 1638 erected more than 100 large flags around the cemetery and Veterans Memorial area and placed 1,820 flags within local cemeteries at the graves of known veterans who served in the U.S. military. Lincoln County is one of the few to proudly continue this practice.

A large crowd gathered to hear the Merrill City Band perform patriotic songs, watch the annual laying of the wreaths ceremony, and to honor fallen veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, by laying down their lives in service to their country. Every branch of the U.S. military service was honored.
Deacon Jim Arndt gave the opening and closing prayers, John Rathke led with opening remarks and led in the Pledge of Allegiance following the National Anthem, the ladies Auxiliary held the tolling of the bell ceremony, and Steve Sabatke spoke about the new display on the backside of the marble monument that lists the names of all 160 fallen Lincoln County soldiers from all wars with the exception of the Civil War [Lincoln County was at that time still a part of Marathon County].
This year’s keynote speaker, U.S. Marine Kevin Hermening, shared about his time in captivity as one of the Iranian hostages where he was held prisoner for 440 days, along with 52 other American diplomats. His important message was one of thanks for the military personnel who trained to try to free the hostages and of gratitude and honor for the eight servicemen who lost their lives in a helicopter crash as part of that mission. He reflected on the parade and fanfare the hostages received upon their return to U.S. soil and how all of our military service men and women should have received such a welcome, but most did not.

Michael Caylor shared the story of the Talbot trumpets and bugle (see last week’s Merrill Foto News for the complete story), and, after the 21-gun salute, for the first time in many years, those same instruments played Taps in Merrill, ringing out their clear, haunting notes on the sounds of reverent silence at the cemetery. After the Memorial Day ceremony concluded, the instruments officially changed hands as Mike Talbot, the family’s historian and keeper of the instruments, formally entrusted them to the keeping of VFW Post 1638 in Merrill. A display case will be built to showcase the instruments and their story and to honor the two men who once played them, and Mike Talbot’s request that any fallen Merrill soldiers who return to Merrill for burial following future wars or conflicts will be honored by the playing of Taps at their funerals using those same instruments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top