Topeka Cemeteries Mark Memorial Day With Ceremonies

Personal tributes played out in a trio of ceremonies at two Topeka cemeteries for Memorial Day.

At Penwell-Gabel, off SW 6th and Fairlawn, flags lined the path to the Protect and Serve Garden. It is the final resting place for both military members and police officers killed in the line of duty.

Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller was among speakers at the event. He says the military and law enforcement share a common bond.

"These men and women every day are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary," Miller said. "They know each day could be the last day."

Among those attending the ceremony was Jim Freel, a Marine who served at Iwo Jima. He said the Marines are "a brotherhood like no other." He added that Memorial Day gives people a chance to thank those who served.

Fellow Marine Sen. Pat Roberts also spoke at the event. He recognized 99-year-old Opal Hoeckel-Redwine, who served as a U.S. Army - Air Force nurse in WWII. Roberts said Memorial Day is a reminder that the service of people like Freel and Hoeckel-Redwine is still needed today.

"Defense of freedom falls to every generation," he said.

People at Penwell-Gabel also were invited to stop at a Wall of Remembrance, bearing photos of those who served.

At historic Topeka Cemetery, near SE 10th and California, Memorial Day was time to salute a pair of war veterans for whom thanks is often considered long overdue.

One ceremony marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. The event was held next to a monument honoring Henry Murphy Walsh. Historian Deb Bisel says Walsh's father dedicated the monument to his son, who died in Europe and whose body remained there because the father thought it proper that "a soldier remained where he fell."

The stories of 24 other WWI soldiers buried there also are on display for the weekend.

Bisel says the stories bring home the sacrifice and help people realize these were real people with real lives and real hopes and dreams.

Elsewhere in Topeka Cemetery on Monday, bells tolled as flowers were laid for those who lost their lives in Vietnam.

Denise Cunningham, the assistant chief of the VAMC for volunteer services, spoke at the event, told the audience that the event would "remember those who are forever young."

Veterans who served alongside some of those honored here say it's important Americans never forget the sacrifice for our freedom. Vietnam veteran Roland Mayhew said a lot of people will take one day to talk about veterans, but "our freedom is always here."