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'Today, we feel their loss': Belfield salutes fallen veterans with Memorial Day program

Red, white and blue ran through the town of Belfield Monday, May 31, 2021, as the Belfield American Legion Post #144 hosted its annual Memorial Day program at the Belfield Theater. The event featured the singing of the National Anthem by Belfield High School’s choir as well as “Amazing Grace.”

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The Belfield Legion Color Guard marches down First Avenue Northwest in Belfield Monday, May 31, 2021, for its presentation of the flags for the annual Memorial Day program. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Wearing their former service uniforms, nine veterans line the street. Belfield American Legion’s Sergeant at Arms Larry Johnson announces to his Honor Guard, “Ready. Aim. Fire.” The sharp firing of the three volleys send shivers down people’s spines as they remember those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom in service to the United States. Following the playing of the Taps, the Belfield Legion Color Guard line up and march down the street.

Red, white and blue ran through the town of Belfield Monday, May 31, 2021, as the Belfield American Legion Post #144 hosted its annual Memorial Day program at the Belfield Theater. The event featured the singing of the National Anthem by Belfield High School’s choir as well as “Amazing Grace.”

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Jim Nelson, a U.S. Navy veteran, speaks on the importance of Memorial Day in Belfield Monday, May 31, 2021.(Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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The Belfield Legion Color Guard marches in downtown Belfield Monday, May 31, 2021, for its presentation of the flags for the annual Memorial Day program. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press) (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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Jim Nelson, a U.S. Navy veteran, spoke on the importance of Memorial Day and how showing up for Memorial Day events is a way to preserve the memories of those who have served this nation and pay tribute to their sacrifices.

“In my conversations with family members, I’m touched by the memories that they all have shared — some more than others. And the pain of that loss and a life not lived is still felt to this day,” Nelson said. “... Today, we feel their loss, roaming the sacred hills of Arlington National Cemetery and other cemeteries and final resting places around the world. Too many mothers, fathers, siblings and children feel the immense weight of seeing an empty way of life. Today, our troops continue to make the pledge, to give the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of something greater than themselves, falling into the footsteps of generations of unselfish, courageous and dedicated Americans.”

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Belfield American Legion’s Sergeant at Arms Larry Johnson adjusts an American flag on a post in a Belfield cemetery Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Johnson, who’s served on the Honor Guard for approximately 40 years, looks forward to this annual event the Belfield American Legion puts together each year and was excited to have Nelson to be the guest speaker for this year’s event.

“I was glad he accepted our invitation. He was my former criminal justice instructor when I got my degree. I knew he was a very good speaker, a very forceful speaker and I knew his message would be good. So we were very happy and very fortunate to have him. And he might get invited back,” Johnson said, with a big grin.

Like Nelson, Johnson believes it is important people set aside time each year to remember those who have died in the armed forces.

“It’s a very serious part of our history. These are very important people and we don’t dare forget them,” Johnson said, adding, “We’re trying to instill in the young people the seriousness of military service, and hope they don’t fail us in the future.”

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Johnson’s wife, Ruth, also displayed a PowerPoint presentation with period pictures of American wars such as the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, both World Wars, Korean War and Vietnam War.

“It’s quite an honor. I’ve enjoyed doing it… It’s a lot of work but a lot of satisfaction too,” Johnson said. “Considering the nice weather we had, I figured a lot of these people (would) be out fishing or camping. But the theater was just about full today, so I’m pretty happy with the turnout.”

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Grave markers list places where service men and women have died in combat. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

For years to come, Johnson and the Belfield American Legion hope to keep its momentum and continue attracting a large crowd.

“We’re always looking for younger veterans to join our Honor Guards, because right now they’re getting to be a lot of gray hair and in my case, no hair on the Honor Guard. And that’s something we can’t let die. The Honor Guards who perform at veterans funerals are very much appreciated by the family. It means a great deal to them, so we’re trying to provide a small town service as best we can,” Johnson added.

Related Topics: EVENTSDICKINSONVETERANS
Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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