Large crowd attends Orion Memorial Day observance

Mindy Carls
Col. Todd Burnley of Rock Island Arsenal salutes during echo Taps near the end of the Memorial Day observance on Monday, May 31, at the Orion Community Veterans Monument in Central Park
While the color guard salutes, DeAnne Bloomberg sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the Memorial Day observance on Monday, May 31, at the Orion Community Veterans Monument in Central Park.

The audience for Orion’s Memorial Day observance on Monday, May 31, was one of the largest since 1,000 attended the dedication of the Orion Community Veterans Monument on Veterans Day in 2006.

To begin the service, a color guard from Orion Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 143 and Orion American Legion Post 255 entered the veterans monument under the command of Scott Peterson.

DeAnne Bloomberg sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Rev. Gwen Sefrhans-Murphy, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Orion, gave the invocation. She gave thanks for the lives of those who died in the service of their country, and prayed that their memory would be a blessing for everyone.

Emcee Darrel called for a moment of silence for POWs and MIAs.

Stu Etheridge, commander of Orion American Legion Post 255, read the names of veterans who have died since the last Memorial Day observance in 2019. The list included Elmer Johnson, Tim Swanson, George Rose, Gary Graham, John Dave Gould, Bob Merrill, Larry Carrol, Gene Boehm, Warren Gale, Steve Koeze and Calvin Phalen.

Scott Peterson, commander of Orion Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 143, read a list of the post’s members who have died since June 2019. The names were LeRoy Stropes, Swanson, Rose, Donald Phillips and Johnson.

Sue DeDecker of the Orion American Legion Auxiliary read the name of a deceased Gold Star mother, Lois Leif, whose son Michael died during combat in Vietnam.

Directed by Emily Roberts, the Orion Community Band played a medley of theme songs for branches of the armed forces.

Col. Todd Burnley, chief of staff, Joint Munitions Command at Rock Island Arsenal, delivered the keynote address. He drew on his experiences in the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs office during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008. The office ensures every American soldier is brought home and receives all of the benefits and honors they have earned.

“Here (in Orion) it’s very special to gather at the veterans’ memorial, treasured by Orion’s citizens and by the families and friends of more than 300 local veterans,” Burnley said. “In the Army we consider our greatest asset to be our people. Our all-volunteer Army is a credit to Americans of all races, genders and creeds, and our common commitment to defense and love of country binds us together and unifies us. All of this goes to the heart of what it means to be an American.”

Burnley received a standing ovation. Muhleman said he meant no disrespect, but he noted the Vietnam veterans came home before Burnley was born.

The Orion Community Band then played patriotic music, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “God Bless the USA,” which brought the Orion audience to its feet when Muhleman called for it, as well as “Taps for the Fallen Brave” featuring trumpeter Tracy Hepner.

Muhleman dedicated a brick in the monument for Mike King, whose father Art King and brother Steve King already have bricks there.

Sefrhans-Murphy gave the closing prayer.

Hepner and Bill Sterba played echo Taps.

The color guard retired the colors.

After the service in the park, the observance continued in Orion Lutheran and Western Township cemeteries with the playing of Taps, the firing of rifle volleys and the placing of flowers on veterans’ graves.