Memorial Day: The last Monday in May that is a national holiday in the U.S. honoring members of the armed forces who died in wars. — Merriam Webster Dictionary
A tall, metal arch with lighted brick pillars on each side guides visitors down the walkway to the McPherson County Veterans Memorial.
The carved inscription reads: “This memorial is dedicated to the veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who served and performed their patriotic duty in defense of our country and freedom.”
Flags virtually encircle the shrine, as if to set up a perimeter, both complementing and guarding the names etched in stone.
It is a fitting tribute to those who are honored on Memorial Day, which started out as Decoration Day as a way to salute those who died in the Civil War. Today, it is a time when families decorate the graves of those who died in conflict defending our nation and other nations.
The memorial in Eureka is striking because of its design and size. In my travels around the state, I have seen dozens of memorials and each one is special in its own right. For example, a few miles up the road from where I live in Lyman County, just north of the small community of Reliance, is a memorial exquisite in its simplicity. Statues of two servicemen stand on either side of the monuments with the veterans’ names carved in stone.
The memorial, always lighted at night, provides a reassuring beacon for travelers of the region.
South Dakota has done itself proud in honoring those who served in the armed forces, and many communities have either developed new memorials or enhanced older ones in recent years.
“I would say the last 15 years has seen more activity with memorials,” said Audry Ricketts, public information officer for the state Department of Veterans Affairs. “I applaud veterans service organizations in getting them built.”
It is not always easy. All that granite, marble, bronze and etching is expensive. Generally, no state or federal money is available, so communities or counties must have leadership that sees the value of the memorials.
At present, Ricketts’ office shows only three counties in the state without exterior memorials – Buffalo, Faulk and Ziebach.
“Maybe someday some people will do it,” said Elaine Wulff, Buffalo County register of deeds. “We’re such a small county and it’s been put on the back burner.”
And yet, Buffalo County recognizes its veterans with a registry inside the courthouse, and state records show that four veterans gave their lives in World War II, one in the Korean War and two in Vietnam.
They, and the others who died serving their country, are remembered and especially on Memorial Day.
May 24, 2017