The Veterans of Foreign Wars and Daisy Mountain Veterans celebrated their Memorial Day with an emotional ceremony where they reflected on those lost and those still missing.
Anthem’s community park and veteran’s memorial was surrounded by flags and draped with 77 roses spread across each name on the site’s circle of honor.
As the official ceremony began, one thing became clear. Memorial Day is not just about those who have served — it is about those still serving and risking their lives to protect the freedoms we hold near and dear to our hearts.
“It is a day to honor and remember those who gave their lives and are still giving them for our great country and for our freedom,” said Mary Lou Spicer, chaplain of the event and a Navy veteran. “This day is not about me or anybody else. We are alive and need to continue to protect the country that our comrades gave their lives for.”
For Spicer, Memorial Day goes beyond just one day and also goes beyond those who died on the battlefield.
“May is our special time to honor the fallen and remember those with whom we served, whether they were shot down in Korea or claimed by some form of cancer they were forced to breathe in while serving in Vietnam or have taken their own lives because they were too weary of wrestling with the demons,” Spicer said.
Like Spicer, other veterans view Memorial Day as more than just an extension of a weekend and a federal holiday.
“We reflect today upon the more than 1 million American soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen who lost their lives defending and protecting our great nation. We hold those veterans, their families, friends and comrades in our hearts,” said Michael Tapp, a commander of the American Legion and former chief warrant officer of the U.S Coast Guard.
Tapp also took the ceremony as a chance to nod to the uniqueness of the Anthem Veterans Memorial.
On Memorial Day of 2012, former U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as the United States of America Vietnam War commemoration era. The Anthem Memorial Park is one of the institutions created to participate in that program.
At the memorial, the official 50th anniversary Vietnam War flag stands at the base of the site’s flagpole to commemorate the more than 2 million military members deployed to South Vietnam, as well as the over 58,000 soldiers who either died or remain missing from the war.
Tapp also had all veterans in attendance from all wars and operations that the nation has engaged in stand for a round of applause for their sacrifice and bravery while serving in the U.S. military.
“All of those who stood were, in their era and in their calling, willing to make harsh personal sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, if needed, to protect our nation,” Tapp said.
Though Memorial Day can be an emotional day for most veterans, others have conflicting emotions.
“For me, Memorial Day is a bittersweet holiday,” said Jim Oliveri, Vietnam War Army veteran, former member of the Daisy Mountain Veterans board, and author. “I’m always a bit subdued as I recall the men that I knew who lost their lives defending our country. But, conversely, the great pride I had from knowing them is quite uplifting.”
Though Oliveri lost friends while serving in the U.S. Army, he considers himself fortunate that every member of his family who has served has returned from duty safely.
“I cannot even begin to imagine the anguish some may have suffered due to the loss of a loved one in battle,” Oliveri said.
“These people come from a very select group. Just 7% of our current population has ever served in the armed forces. Less than one-half of 1% of our citizens now comprise our active military.”
“Thankfully, the percentage lost in combat is also relatively small, although heartbreaking in its finality to their families.”
Though the veterans memorial was decorated beautifully with flowers and flags, the most notable prop was an empty table reserved to honor missing soldiers.
The table was round to display everlasting concern and draped with a white cloth to symbolize the purity of the soldiers’ motives when answering the call to serve.
On the cloth is a single rose to remind those looking of the lives of the soldiers and the loved ones and friends who keep the faith while awaiting answers.
There was also a yellow ribbon on the table as a symbol of uncertainty and continued hope that soldiers will return home.
The table was served with a slice of lemon and a pinch of salt — the slice of lemon to remind those looking on of the battle to the bitter fate while captured or missing in a foreign land, and the salt symbolic of the tears of those missing and the fallen.
Illuminating the table was a lit candle to show hope that missing or imprisoned soldiers will return, and a bound book was set next to it to convey the strength those soldiers gained through devotion.
Glasses were inverted to remind people that these soldiers cannot share a toast, and empty chairs symbolized the ones at their families’ dinner tables.
A bell was sounded 77 times at the conclusion of the ceremony for those veterans who did not make it home and one additional time for all the others who have not in all wars the United States has fought.
“May we never forget the sacrifice they made and may their souls rest in peace,” Tapp said.