By JOE SUTTER
Memorial Day kicked off early on Sunday evening with the annual service to honor unknown veterans, sponsored by the VFW Auxiliary.
Around 40 people gathered at a new stone marker in Veterans Memorial Park, recently installed to mirror a larger monument in Oakland Cemetery. That monument was built in 1902 to honor the unknown soldiers who never returned from the Civil War.
The Memorial Park location is easier to get to, said Tom Dorsey, president of the Fort Dodge Veterans Council.
Memorial Day is needed, because memories fade too quickly otherwise, said the Rev. Jim Laupp, pastor of First Baptist Church.
Laupp said most people remember exactly where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. Some remember their thoughts at the Challenger explosion, the John F. Kennedy assassination, and even during the attack on Pearl Harbor. These events are memorable because they have a day, he said.
"Even though these events impacted us as a nation, how many of us have remembered them more than once or twice in the past 12 months?" he said. "Now, how many spouses, parents, children, and other friends and family members over the last 12 months have thought about a loved one lost in one of the towers in New York City?
"Even almost 13 years later, I would say it is almost a constant in their lives," Laupp continued. "We will forget if we are not called back to remember."
Remember those who served, and thank them personally, he said. People like Laupp's own uncle, who was part of the force on Okinawa in World War II prepared to invade Japan, and was told he would never come back. Or people like the son of Laupp's college basketball coach, who was on the ground in Kuwait two weeks before Operation Desert Storm.
"Thank the families of those who have served, for they served right along with them in their own way," Laupp said. "Spouses keeping the family going, while husband or wife is stationed elsewhere. Parents who supported their son or daughter in serving this country, and potentially face the loss of a child. Children who miss mom or dad. It is important we remember them as well."
Don't just remember them by thanking them; Laupp said we should remember the veterans in the way we treat our freedoms.
Don't take that freedom for granted, he said, and don't let it become common.
"When we attempt to shut down someone's expression of the rights she or he has because of our freedoms, we are treating our freedoms in a casual manner," Laupp said.
This includes freedom of religion for all, he said, and freedom of speech, even for those you disagree with.
"Actions or speech that we find deplorable are not wrong because we personally find them despicable or deplorable," he said. "Inside a free society, there must be a right of dissent."
Memorial Day services today will be at 9 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park, with a program by the American Legion Auxiliary; and 10 a.m. at North Lawn Cemetary, presented by the Fort Dodge Veterans Council and featuring the Karl King Municipal Band.