By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Mother Nature cooperated by parting the skies, lifting the rain and casting a steady breeze to float the flags for Monday’s Memorial Day observance at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Monday’s program was planned by the Andrew Kinder VFW Post #4688 and its auxiliary.
The featured speaker for Monday’s program was Elna Johnson of Imperial. Post Commander P.J. Pajerski said Johnson and her late husband, Loral, were always supportive of the veterans in their newspaper, The Imperial Republican.
He said she’s remained true to those beliefs as she continues to serve her community.
Knowing about war
Johnson asked the crowd when they first remember hearing about war.
For her, it came as a six-year-old at a church gathering near her home in Brush, Colo.
She remembers her dad’s younger cousin, who was home on leave from the Air Force.
Her cousin received a call to report back to duty—Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
“December 7, 1941—a date that will live in infamy,” she said, repeating the famous words of President Franklin Roosevelt.
She said she didn’t understand the reactions that day.
“To be honest, I didn’t know if it was good or bad,” she said. However, she would soon learn what war really meant.
She recalled her family gathering for a family picture in 1943, shortly before her oldest brother left for the Army at age 19. She said she continues to cherish that photo to this day.
Two of her brothers would serve in World War II and a third in Korea. “We are fortunate that they all came home,” she said.
She wondered how many others had their family portrait taken but were not as fortunate to have their sons come back home.
Their lives were cut short, she said, paying “the ultimate price fighting for our freedom. Freedom isn’t free.”
As Americans stopped on Memorial Day to honor the memory of their dead heroes, Johnson reminded people of the sacrifices made over the generations.
In WWI, 115,000 soldiers died in Europe. That number more than tripled in WWII with 400,000 dying all over the world. The Korean and Vietnam wars took another 100,000 soldiers.
She recalled the message delivered by Scott Parker during the recent visit to Imperial of The Vietnam Traveling Wall.
Of the 58,000-plus names on the wall, many were just 18 years old. “Their memory books were very brief,” she said. “But our memories thanks to them continue and that’s why we’re here today.”
She said two songs have special meaning to her, the first being the heart-tug of “Taps.” “Day is done, gone the sun, From the lake, From the hill, From the sky, All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.”
While she said she wouldn’t try to sing it, she said Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA” is a song that speaks to all.
She closed her message by reading the words to the song: “Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land—God Bless the USA.”
Post and auxiliary members closed out the program by recognizing fallen comrades and their service with the presentation of a wreath, red, white and blue flowers and a flag, followed by “Taps,” played by Sasheena Shinn.