By Julia Jones, Correspondent
A local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars held their annual Memorial Day service on Monday, May 29 at Henry T. Waskow Post 4008 in Belton. According to Gary Leofsky, the upcoming commander for Post 4008, the event allows Veterans and their families to remember members of the military community who died for their country.
“We’re here to support the veterans; that’s what it’s all about. This Memorial Day service is so we can pay tribute to all of them,” Leofsky said.
The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by two speeches commemorating those who died in a war and the namesake of the post, Henry T. Waskow outgoing commander Loy Gardner explained the significance of the Waskow family.
“The descendants of Henry T. Waskow are here to observe this. The post has supported that family ever since it was formed in 1945,” Gardner said. “One of the members of the 26th charter was Henry T. Waskow’s brother.”
After the speeches, members of the VFW lit a candle for prisoners of war and those that went missing in action and laid roses on the ground in front of combat boots and a military helmet to honor fallen soldiers. The ceremony ended with the playing of taps and a closing prayer. Auxiliary President Jessica Kilgore stated why this event is special to her and her family.
“It’s to remember all the ones like my grandfather who was killed in war,” Kilgore said. “A lot of people like to thank veterans today, but today is more about remembering than thanking them.”
Many of the veterans attended the ceremony to honor friends and colleagues who died in combat. VFW member Keith Oltman spend Memorial Day reflecting on the friends he lost in Vietnam.
“I’m just remembering all the guys that I did serve with that didn’t come back,” Oltman said.
Roughly 40 people were in attendance on Monday, a slight increase in turnout compared to past years, according to Leofsky, who has helped in the planning and execution of the ceremony for five years. He states why this event is so important to Post 4008.
“It’s a tradition. We’ve got to honor those who have died for this country,” Leofsky said.
Post 4008 has a rich history that begins with Henry T. Waskow, who was from Belton but gained a reputation nationwide. Gardner explained how Waskow became a well-known figure through the film The Story of G.I. Joe.
“Robert Mitchum made a movie in the fifties about Henry T. Waskow, but they used a different name because the military would not let them use his name since the war was going on,” Gardner said.