GREENFIELD — Chris Sickles and three of his young children sat silent through Greenfield’s Memorial Day Service on Monday.

They were among those who braved the threat of rain to gather in Park Cemetery and pay tribute to military men and women who lost their lives fighting for freedom.

Sickles’ children — Owen, 10; Ava, 7; and Novie, 1 — likely are too young to fully understand the meaning of Memorial Day, but it’s important they know it’s about more than just a day off from school and work, Sickles said.

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For more than five years, the Greenfield family has attended the event. It’s somewhat of a family tradition, one he intends to continue.

“I’m not in the military, but I think it’s important that my children understand what today is about beyond just grilling and having a good time outside,” Sickles said. “It gives us a chance to be quiet and reflect.”

Conducted every year, the Memorial Day ceremony, “Gone but not forgotten,” gives families the opportunity to pay respect and honor to deceased Hancock County veterans. About 50 people attended Greenfield’s 58th annual event.

The first casualties date to the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

To name but a few conflicts, the United States lost 116,708 troops in World War I; 408,306 in World War II; 54,246 in the Korean War and 58,219 in the Vietnam War, according to the White House Commission on Remembrance.

The day originally was called Decoration Day. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War. Congress made the day into a three-day weekend with the passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971.

The cemetery was adorned with 737 American flags. Each represents a Hancock County veteran who made the sacrifice to protect freedom, and it’s imperative the community pay tribute to those soldiers, said the Rev. Ronnie Romans of the Indiana Guard Reserve.

“We’re blessed to have this community come together today,” he said. “We always want to remember this day.”

Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell, a Marine Corps veteran, told the audience the community can’t allow Memorial Day to pass without giving thought to the men and women who died serving their country. He thanked them for attending.

“As a deeply patriotic American, it warms my heart to see so many of you here today,” he said. “Never forget. Never let your children forget.”

The ceremony included a presentation of wreaths, a rifle salute by the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard and the playing of taps.

For nearly 60 years, the Dale E. Kuhn American Legion Post 119 and its auxiliary and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2693 have sponsored the event.

And for more than 40 years, members have erected the Avenue of Flags in the cemetery to honor their fallen comrades.

Legion and VFW members also handed out American flags to be placed at the graves of veterans buried at Park Cemetery.

Rebecca Rehfuss’ family has been attending the event for years. It’s a family tradition even her young grandchildren participate in.

They pay tribute to her father-in-law, Donald E. Rehfuss, who was a member of the U.S. Army serving in Korea.

She also remembers her own father, who served in World War II, and her grandfather, who was a World War I veteran.

Each year, the family stands near Donald Rehfuss’ flag and vows to never forget the men and woman who gave their lives.

Although her loved one wasn’t killed in combat, the ceremony is near and dear to her heart, she said.

“This is not just a holiday to cook hot dogs and go to the beach,” she said. “As the saying goes, freedom isn’t free.”

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.