As Wellington area community members honored deceased veterans on Memorial Day, they also honored chairman Gil Cole for his tireless work bringing the event together since 1995.
This is Cole’s 34th year helping to host the village parade and ceremony.
A member of both the VFW Post 6941 and American Legion Post 8, he served as a military police officer in Vietnam. He is also on the national committee of the American Legion.
The solemn ceremony began with the reading by Boy Scout Justin Hartman of Gen. John Logan’s 11th General Order given May 5, 1868. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans’ organization for Union Civil War veterans, called to establish Decoration Day to be observed annually and nationwide on May 30 each year. The day was changed to the last Monday in May by Congress in 1971.
Cole gave an address about the meaning of Memorial Day to him, growing up in Wellington. He shared remembrances of Memorial Days past. “The veterans were proudly marching down the street. We kids could run along waving our small American flags, saluting as a child salutes, thrilling all as watching those who gave their all serving their country with dignity, honor, bravery, and pride.
“Our small-town America honored our veterans and service in the best way we knew how — with pride and joy,” said Cole.
He recounted learning at an early age about the true cost of freedom, that it “is a blessing that has never been achieved without the shedding of blood… No amount of money or silver or gold can buy the freedoms we live in today,” he said.
Cole said we often take for granted the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedoms and who left behind mothers, fathers, spouses, and children.
“Freedom is not free. Neither is the price of freedom cheap. It is costly. It’s is something not to be taken lightly,” Cole said. “Because of those sacrifices we grew up in a land of hope, not fear. We can never repay those who gave us so much.
“Memorial Day is much more than big parades and flashing lights and screaming sirens and pretty girls on top of beautiful floats. It is a solemn day set aside to show appreciation in honor for those that gave us our America.”
After placing wreaths at the memorial in Howk Park, the group marched to Greenwood Cemetery for the reading of the names of deceased veterans and the decoration of the cenotaph.
Tom Hutson can be reached at 440-647-3171.