OTTUMWA — The lonely, mournful call of a bugle brought quiet to the park, broken only by the steady, rapid drumming of rain and the occasional deep rumble of thunder.
As taps concluded, Ottumwa City Councilman Brian Morgan paused, then told a crowd in the shelter house that the sad sound of taps always tugs at his heart. Personally, he said, he wished more people had attended the Memorial Day ceremony at Ottumwa Park. He acknowledged that the rain, heavy at times, may have kept some people home. But the honor guard assembled by veterans stood outside in the rain, rifles and a bugle at the ready.
"They (the veterans) told me they don't mind putting up with that," Morgan told the participants. "They say the [military personnel] who we're here to honor endured so much more ... one Memorial Day, I'd like to see this [shelter house] packed."
But the people who did show up Monday were there for a reason. Jerry Fitch, the speaker for the American Legion, broke away from his notes to acknowledge that.
"Memorial Day is a ritual of remembrance to honor those who have fallen in combat. Looking out, I see a lot of you who know what I'm talking about."
Ward Ransford, the Ottumwa VFW speaker, talked about those troops who fought and died for their country.
"They were ordinary human beings, just like us," he said. "But they were extraordinary in what they accomplished."
The message from the speakers had a theme: That these combatants died defending our way of life; that they died so we can live free. That while we're sad for their deaths, we can't live in utter sadness over their sacrifice. To honor their lives, we must live ours to the fullest.
Morgan summed up the message: Honor the service of those who died by being of service here at home, in your own community.
Mary Ann Ransford, a state and local VFW official, said while we spend time reflecting on those who gave their lives, we should remember that our armed forces continue to serve around the world.
As usual, added Penny Marburger, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, our troops now, as in the past, fight for the same reason.
"Not to conquer or enslave but to defend our freedom."
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark