STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK
Low clouds obscuring mountain peaks canceled the flyover, but rain showers failed to dampen the enthusiasm of about 200 people for Hailey’s annual Memorial Day ceremony on Monday.
Crowds watched as community members placed the Battlefield Cross – a wooden monument with combat boots and a helmet on a rifle bayonet – next to the veterans’ memorial stone. The dog tags on the battlefield cross were dedicated to 434 veterans buried in Hailey Cemetery, ceremony organizer Geegee Lowe said.
It is reminiscent of the Civil War, when soldiers and villagers would drive a fallen soldier’s bayonet into the ground, placing his helmet on top so they could come back later and give him a proper burial. The rifle and helmet became associated with the loss of a soldier. Worn and dirty boots have become a symbol of the soldiers’ final march, she added.
A little girl came prepared with sunglasses and an umbrella.
Watching the ceremony was Matt Neal, who had previously pinned poppies on his children Ben and Charlotte. Neal moved here with his wife Christy and family from Las Vegas last year to work for Cox Communications. He had just lost his grandfather, a Navy Seabee in World War II. And Matt himself had served in the military.
“I was very involved in veteran activities in Las Vegas, so that means a lot,” he said.
Joan Davies told the story of poppies – how farmers plowing fields near the front lines in the aftermath of World War I found the red flowers springing to life. The red flowers caught the attention of a Canadian doctor who composed a poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in honor of a deceased friend, one of the 9 million soldiers lost during this war.
Others present included Diana Landis, who wore her late husband’s dark World War II veteran’s cap, which he had worn so proudly for so many years. Landis was spending her first Memorial Day without her husband Bill Brandt, an Air Force captain who died earlier this year at age 97.
Community members position the battlefield cross.
Idaho National Guard Col. Chad Kornberg described how the Guard deployed in various ways over the past two years. Pilots deployed to Afghanistan; civil engineers and medical personnel traveled to 13 different countries. The Idaho National Guard provided security for the presidential inauguration, and its members spread out throughout Idaho to assist with vaccine testing and distribution during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airmen are also helping in areas affected by wildfires, flooding and crippling snowfall.
“We train every day to be ready to answer the call of our nation,” he said. “Anywhere. Anytime. That’s our charge.
Brienne Cost, who works with veterans for Higher Ground, spoke about the therapeutic recreational activities her Sun Valley-based nonprofit organization offers veterans, ranging from skiing to surfing to deep-sea fishing.
A member of the Mountain Home Air Force Base honor guard plays “Taps” on a ceremonial bugle with an electronic insert. Such trumpets were brought into service as fewer and fewer servicemen knew how to play the trumpet.
“We find that the outdoors provides an environment for healing,” she said, describing how veterans with post-traumatic stress and other challenges develop coping skills, confidence and resilience. self-confidence by participating in these activities.
Retired Naval Officer Richard Fife, who grew up in the Wood River Valley, invited the public to attend a 6:30 p.m. presentation on Wednesday June 8 at the Community Campus to learn more about the sub- sailor USS Idaho currently under construction in Groton, Conn.
It’s the only navy ship with its own marching song, he said, as he played “Silver and Gold Beneath the Waves,” which was written by a professor at the University of ‘Idaho.
“He was named in honor of all military veterans in the state of Idaho,” he added. “It’s a huge honor!”
A member of the Mountain Home Air Force Base Firing Party takes part in a 21-gun salute.