Locals honor South Dakotans lost in the fight for freedom
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Memorial Day is a day dedicated to celebrating and honoring those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom.
Organizations in Rapid City met to honor the brave South Dakotan men and women who served and the families they left behind. Monday morning, the Veterans Monument at Memorial Park was surrounded by veterans and locals paying their respects to those lost to war. Many of the veterans present were from the Vietnam era.
“I have too many friends on the wall in D.C., and this is one way I can show respect for them that gave their life to our nation,” said Vietnam Veterans of America SD State Council President, Jack Dean. “We were the generation that were looked down upon, and we made a pledge a long time ago that we would never turn our back on another era of veterans.”
Vietnam veterans continue to hold a special place in many service members hearts, as they continue to support and remember those who have pledged their lives.
“When I deployed in 2004-2005, we were fortunate to have a 15-day break in service where we could come home and spend that time with our families,” said S.D. Army National Guard Chief of Staff, Scott Petrik. “I flew into the Dallas Airport and we got off the airplane and we walked down a hallway that was filled with Vietnam veterans. They were cheering for each one of us that got off the aircraft – and that brought me to my knees, because at that point is when I came to realize that our Vietnam veterans did not have that same welcome when they came home from the war.”
The day was also a time of remembrance for those who lost loved ones and friends. There was a wreath-laying and salute ceremony, as well as a ceremony featuring the Ellsworth Honor Guard, where the names of fallen South Dakotan service members were read and their families recognized.
“A friend of my fathers was named,” said Pennington County GOP chair, Jeffrey Holbrook. “And it was vivid for me because I met him the first time before he was deployed to Vietnam. And I came into the living room one day to find my father weeping. And I said ‘dad, what’s wrong’, he said ‘Gordon was killed.’ We lost a lot of good people.”
Another serviceman honored was sailor Vincent Fast Horse of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Only 27 years old, he was lost at sea when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, leaving behind a wife and two young children. His son, James, and granddaughter, Jennifer, were in attendance.
“I appreciate Rapid City…they honored my dad,” said James. “It’s been a long time since I was here, about two years, but I‘m very glad to be here to attend it.”
“I’m very honored that they invited us here.” said Jennifer.
Although family members of those lost live with it every day, Holbrook believes it helps knowing that other people also remember.
“In a way, I look at it as kind of healing. Any loss is traumatic, and you never really get over it. You always remember, but knowing that others remember along with you, I think is comforting perhaps. So, we must always remember that we must comfort those who are left behind.”
“Whether you’re tied to the military, or a regular citizen,” said Dean. ‘These people gave up their lives for your freedom.”
A freedom that must always be fought for. Petrik reflected on the solemn occasion and encouraged people to visit and decorate grave sites…but also said they should take time to enjoy the day and have fun.