‘The cost of freedom’
American Legion National Commander Daniel Seehafer delivers remarks during the Indianapolis 500 Festival American Legion Memorial Service on the steps outside the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis, Ind. Photo by Mike Rohan/The American Legion

‘The cost of freedom’

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National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer was among a group of distinguished speakers who led The American Legion 500 Festival Memorial Service held on the steps of the Indiana War Memorial in downtown Indianapolis today.

“Any time that we can gather as free people is worth celebrating, but we should always remember the cost of that freedom,” Seehafer said.

His remarks followed a series of patriotic songs performed by the Capital City Chorus and Indiana’s 38th Infantry Division.

Seehafer read from the poem, “The Raindrops on Your Old Tin Hat,” which was written by World War I Medal of Honor recipient John Hunter Wickersham shortly before he was mortally wounded in battle.

And fellows, she’s the hero of this great big ugly war,

And her prayer is on the wind across the flat,

And don’t you reckon maybe it’s her tears, and not the rain,

That’s keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?”

“Wikersham’s poem was about mothers, but it could just as easily have described the heartache of any loved one who has felt the loss of a fallen hero from any war or military action,” Seehafer said. “A commonly used phrase in The American Legion is ‘every day is Veterans Day.’ But for Gold Star families and the battle buddies of the fallen, every day is Memorial Day.”

WISH-TV news anchor Phil Sanchez served as master of ceremonies and reflected on the history of the memorial service. “For over 60 years, Memorial Day weekend has been a time for the community to come together in downtown Indianapolis and reflect upon the important holiday amid all of the racing festivities,” he said. “It’s a weekend to remember the sacrifices made of the brave men and women who perished while serving in the armed forces.”

Adjutant General of Indiana, Maj. Gen. R. Dale Lyles acknowledged local Gold Star families and fallen veterans, noting, “Today we honor generations of Hoosiers who have stepped forward to bear the torch of selfless service and we stand with their families who have known their loss, and we remain eternally resolved to carry forward their mission.”

“We stand here this Memorial Day weekend to honor servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the loss their families have endured to defend the freedoms we enjoy today and the freedoms we hope to safeguard for future generations of Americans,” added Director of the Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jenson, who served as the event’s keynote speaker. “We also stand here in remembrance of what a sacrifice this magnitude truly means to the American spirit and the importance of ensuring that the hard-won freedoms earned through those sacrifices are never forgotten.”

The service concluded with a military funeral procession with a riderless horse and culminated with a UH-60 Black Hawk flyover courtesy of the Indiana National Guard.