'It's not about the barbecues': Memorial Day a chance to pay tribute in F-M
By Rick Abbott
Published May 30, 2016 - The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
FARGO—With countless flags flying proudly and flowers adorning graves, those in Fargo-Moorhead paid their respects Monday to the men and women who've gone before them.
Hundreds gathered at ceremonies around the metro this Memorial Day, like at Riverside Cemetery in south Fargo, where veterans were honored for their service and others remembered for giving the ultimate sacrifice.
On a day when many might fire up the grill and relax, for others it was a chance to pay tribute.
"It's not about the barbecues this weekend. There is more to it," said Adam Baker, Sgt. 1st Class in the Army National Guard.
Baker, dressed in full uniform in the bright, 80-degree morning, was at the ceremony with his wife, Ashley, and 2-month-old daughter Libby.
"It's a pretty big deal, just to be able to see all the support," he said.
Dozens of small American flags and white crosses dotted the graves of veterans at the cemetery Monday as people saluted or stood with hands on hearts as VFW members and an honor guard marched by.
After remarks by Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, Navy Capt. Jerry Rostad spoke in between performances by the Red River Valley Veterans Concert Band.
The day was "an opportunity to remember the valor and service of more than 1.1 million veterans, both men and women, who have perished throughout our nation's history," Rostad said.
"The spirit of freedom will never let us forget," he said.
Wreaths were laid at a ceremonial flag-draped casket that served as a sort of centerpiece, with a sea of red, white and blue surrounding it.
"Some of my brothers in uniform who I served with did not return. I miss them dearly, but I keep their memories alive in my heart," said Larry Reed, former commander of the American Legion Post 308 in West Fargo
The calm May day, with birds chirping and a slight wind tussling trees' leaves, was pierced by the 21-gun salute delivered by members of the VFW, a stark reminder of the purpose of the occasion.
"It's a day of respect to remember everyone who died so we can be here and be free. It's very important, one of the most important holidays," said Craig Scott, who crouched beneath a tree and watched solemnly.
While Memorial Day can sometimes be overshadowed by its unofficial start of summer, those at the ceremony spent their morning on something more important.
"This is a beautiful day, time you have to do anything you want," Mahoney said. "But you came out here to honor some people who are no longer here. That's very important because people need to be remembered for what they've done and how they've served our country."
For Linda Whaley, a concert band member, and a National Guard member for 24 years, it's a moment of remembrance not to be taken lightly.
"We wouldn't be here if it were not for those that we celebrate today," she said.
Other services were held Monday at Holy Cross Cemetery, Veterans Memorial Bridge, the West Fargo and Fargo VFWs and the Moorhead American Legion.