‘Thank you for your service’: Memorial Day event honors those who gave all


Delmas Smothers of Greenfield grins alongside 4-year-old Riley Purciful, also of Greenfield, after a Memorial Day ceremony in Greenfield’s Park Cemetery on Monday, May 29.

GREENFIELD — With his young daughter seated in his lap, Jon Ostanek draped his arms around his sons and listened as the local American Legion Post 119 presented a Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning at Park Cemetery in Greenfield.

He and his wife Beth made a point to bring their kids Kyle, 10, Wade, 8 and Eve, 4, to an event commemorating the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“This is the closest one to where we live, so we wanted to come here to pay our respects to those who have served,” said Ostanek, a U.S. Navy veteran who served with a deployable unit in Norfolk, Va., followed by three years as a recruiter in Rochester, N.Y.

“When I was a kid, Memorial Day was about going and honoring the people who have died for our country, so I wanted to keep that tradition with my kids,” said Ostanek, who lives in McCordsville.

“A lot of people think it’s about barbecues and the (Indianapolis 500) race and things, but it’s really not what it’s all about. It’s about celebrating those who died for our country,” he said.

Jennifer Manning, commander of the local American Legion Post, thanked the community for attending Monday’s ceremony.

“I can’t talk about Memorial Day without talking about those lost,” said Manning, a combat veteran who mentioned multiple friends she lost while serving in Afghanistan, like Sgt. Joseph Richardson.

“He was 23 years old and had a young wife, and he gave his final breath for the United States. He was a great friend and a great soldier,” said Manning, who also shared how Memorial Day came to be recognized.

“Just a few years after the Civil War ended, they had Decoration Day to decorate gravestones and remember those they lost, and Memorial Day evolved from there. In 1971, Congress officially made Memorial Day the last Monday in May,” she said.

Manning talked of the degree of respect that exists among veterans, as evidenced in a special way they pay respects by leaving a coin at fellow veterans’ gravestones.

“If you see a penny on a gravestone it means you don’t know them, but you show them respect,” said Manning.

“If you see a nickel, it means you went to basic training with that fallen soldier. If you see a dime, it means you deployed overseas with them. If you see a quarter, it means you were right there when that soldier fell,” she said.

“The same traditions of honoring these soldiers are just as important now as they were when they started over 100 years ago.”

Greenfield Chuck Fewell, a former Marine, took time to share some words at the ceremony, which was his tenth he’s attended as mayor of Greenfield.

“I am deeply honored to stand with you commemorating the sacrifice of those military men and women who have laid down their lives in the service of their nation. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, no words of condolence can begin to console a survivor’s grief,” he said.

Fewell shared that no matter how many years pass, it will always be imperative to recognize those who gave their lives for their country.

“If you flip through history books you will be inundated with accounts of stories that will resonate deep within us decades later. We are humbled by the accounts of courage shown by the brave sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard members throughout our history. There is no doubt that our veterans have paved the way for our military’s reputation as the finest fighting force in the world, both in strength and character. That’s why it is important and imperative that we remember them always,” he said.

“The men and women in arms who have given their lives to service in this nation are indisputably heroes. When their country called, they answered. Some volunteered, some were ‘voluntold,’ but no matter how they found their ranks in the military, they found it within themselves to serve faithfully and to their fullest,” said Fewell.

“We are still more than 82,000 military personnel missing in action from every conflict since World War II,” he concluded. “We will never forget them and we will never stop looking to bring them home.”

Just after the ceremony ended around 10:45 a.m., World War II veteran Delmas Smothers of Greenfield was loading his walker into the trunk of his car when 4-year-old Riley Purciful walked up and extended his hand.

“He wanted to thank you for your service,” said the mother of the Greenfield boy, who grinned as he shook Smothers’ hand.

“Thank you very much young man,” said Smothers, a bright smile lighting up his face.