It was a solemn scene but one that nonetheless likely caused goose bumps for those who bore witness or others who later saw photographs of the event.
A Memorial Day parade in Chippewa Falls was canceled due to persistent wind and rain, but that didn’t stop a retired U.S. Air Force captain from completing the route almost entirely by himself. Wayne Steinmetz borrowed an American flag from his employers and underwent the roughly one-mile trek.
“When I heard the parade was canceled, I said to myself, ‘That’s not what we do. We should be out there,’” he told Leader-Telegram reporter Eric Lindquist. “Yeah, some people are going to get wet, but I thought we should support those troops who didn’t come home.”
Steinmetz added that some precipitation and cool temperatures weren’t going to derail a journey meant to honor fallen soldiers.
“Look at what they endured for our country,” he said. “My point is they had a lot more to deal with than a little rain.”
• • •
Originally known as Decoration Day, History.com reports, Memorial Day “originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.” The federal government declared Waterloo, N.Y., as the holiday’s official birthplace five years earlier. In May of 1866, the community’s businesses closed and its soldiers’ graves were decorated.
Memorial Day honors those who have died while serving in the U.S. military. It’s an unfortunately large group, with more than 1 million members from the Civil War and World War II alone. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” which designates 3 p.m. on Memorial Day each year as a time for remembrance.
In his story, Lindquist included a couple of comments that were posted to the Facebook page of Pederson-Volker Funeral Chapel, where Steinmetz works:
• “The soldiers who fought for us didn’t give up because of rain or anything else and neither did you,” said Linda Lewallen. “God bless you.”
• “Absolute true dedication no matter the circumstances,” said Colleen Krejci. “Truly proud of you Wayne and thanks so much for serving our country.”
A later post from Nancy Goettl read, “Thank you for your service, dedication (and) love of country and fellow servicemen and women. You are awesome!”
• • •
Comments similar to those above were submitted when the Leader-Telegram story was posted on its website. It’s proof that support and respect for those who gave their lives for our nation is something on which we can all agree.
Memorial Day also unofficially launches the summer season. That alone could be a reason to celebrate for Wisconsinites who endured a brutal winter and abbreviated spring. Gathering with family and friends should not be dismissed, but neither should the true point of the holiday.
“This was just my way of honoring those folks that made the ultimate sacrifice,” Steinmetz said.
They did, and it’s a debt we cannot repay. But we can thank and honor them for their service.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor