Wreaths have been laid at two war memorials on the Iowa State Capitol grounds today. Captain Lucas Murphy, the Iowa National Guard’s chaplain, opened a ceremony at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery at 8 o’clock this morning.
“Today we offer our gratitude for all the men and women who have served their country in defense of freedom,” he prayed. “For their sacrifice of time, talent, and even to the last full measure of devotion we pay them homage.”
Van Meter Mayor Allen Adams said it’s an honor to have the cemetery in the community. “Today we are gathered to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Governor Kim Reynolds addressed the crowd watching online and in person at the cemetery. “What a fitting resting place it is for the American heroes who served and gave what President Lincoln called ‘the last full measure of devotion in defense of our country and its freedoms,'” Reynolds said. “To all veterans watching us today, to those now serving, to our military families — a very heartfelt thank you.”
Reynolds said every American owes a debt to the sacrifices made by the country’s veterans.
“We are the beneficiaries of their great gift, which we honor when we use our freedom well and remember that it comes at a high price,” she said.
Retired Admiral Michael Franken of Sioux City was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. Franken honored the man who pulled his father from the South Pacific after the sinking of his ship in 1942.
“I just want to say that I’m always thankful and I’m always ready to buy a beer for those, like that guy from Massachusetts, who reached down and pulled my dad from the water,” Franken said, his voice breaking with emotion.
About 5000 veterans are buried at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, which sits just south of Interstate-80.
“it’s an appropriate resting place for Iowa’s veterans with the distant sounds of commerce interspersed with the stillness that is Iowa and the periodic report of a successful hunter I hear in the distance,” Franken said. “It’s truly a scene made for the 200,000-plus veterans and their families in the state of Iowa.”
Franken said most soldiers buried in Iowa were honorably discharged and lived out their lives in the shadow of their service.
“As Van Meter’s very own Bob Feller once said as he was being fawned over for his service interrupted his professional baseball career to serve in World War II: ‘Real heroes didn’t come home,'” Franken said.
In 2014, Franken was the first director of Pentagon’s POW/MIA accounting agency. Franken mentioned next month’s burial of William Tucker of Bedford, a 19-year-old Navy Fireman who was killed when the USS Oklahoma was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“He will be buried in his hometown of Bedford,” Franken said. “It’ll be an important moment in the Tucker family history.”
Tucker’s burial is scheduled a month from now, on June 30th.
Indoor and outdoor ceremonies are being held throughout the state on this Memorial Day. The route for the annual Memorial Day parade in Sioux Center has been reduced from a hilly half mile to just one block, to accommodate elderly veterans who march with flags.
The annual Memorial Day parade in Dubuque has been canceled for the second year. A ceremony was held Sunday to rededicate the renovated Chaplain Schmitt Memorial Island in Dubuque. The Catholic priest, an Iowa native, helped a dozen men escape the USS Oklahoma before he went down with the ship in Pearl Harbor.