U.S. war dead remembered, honored in local Memorial Day ceremonies

Mahlon Conaway of Perry, standing left, was made a Knight of the French Legion of Honor in a Memorial Day ceremony this morning at the Perry Performing Arts Center. The honor was presented to Conaway by Consultant General of France Vincent Floreani, center. Conaway served in the U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division, 142nd Infantry Regiment, Company G. He saw action in France in 1944.

Sunshine smiled on Memorial Day ceremonies today in Perry, where American Legion Post 85 and Floyd Foster Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2060 hosted the annual honors. This year’s commemoration was also marked by the creation of two Knights of the Legion of Honor of France when Mahlon Conaway of Perry and Dr. Mansel King of Des Moines received that nation’s highest honor.

John Powell of Perry presided at the annual ceremonies and delivered a speech about his experiences during the Vietnam War era. He began his remarks with words attributed to George Washington, the first U.S. president: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

Powell related Washington’s words to abuse he endured from anti-war protesters in 1968. He said in some ways the U.S. still has not welcomed home its Vietnam-era veterans. Powell also said the protesters did a service to the country by causing us to ask why we fight.

David Menz of Perry sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America,” accompanied on the piano by Jennie Schulteis.

Floyd Foster Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2060 Chaplain Mike Kelley recited a poem, “When a Soldier Cries,” brought to his attention by John Summerson of Perry.

A ceremonial Roll Call and Answer was conducted by American Legion Post 85 Commander Mike Kelley and Floyd Foster Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2060 Commander Dennis Glass. The ranks of Perry’s veterans have thinned by 31 since last memorial Day.

Korean War Veteran Dick Shoesmith, vice commander of Floyd Foster Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2060 in Perry, introduced the French dignitary, Consultant General of France Vincent Floreani, who spoke briefly about the French people’s great gratitude to U.S. support during World War II, particularly their debt to American soldiers who died in combat.

Floreani then bestowed knighthoods in the Legion of Honor of France on Conaway and King. The old soldiers received a sustained standing ovation from the crowd of about 100 assembled in the Perry Performing Arts Center.

“Taps” was played by former Perry High School Instrumental Music Instructor Steve Cook, and “Echo” was played by 2014 PHS grad Jessie Laughridge.

Ceremonies closed outside the performing arts building with a 21-gun salute by seven members of the American Legion Post 85.

Video highlights courtesy of PEGASUS TV 12 and Doug Wood, PEGASUS volunteer.

American Legion Post 85 Commander Mike Kelley shared the following YouTube video with ThePerrynews.com. This is its background story:

“About six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lie buried 8,301 American soldiers who died in the battles to liberate Holland in the fall and winter of 1944-1945.¬†Every American, Canadian and British soldier buried there has been adopted by a Dutch family who mind the grave, decorate it and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted.

“It is even the custom to keep a portrait of ‘their’ American soldier in a place of honor in their home.

“Annually, on “Liberation Day,” memorial services are held for “the men who died to liberate Holland.” The day concludes with a concert. The final piece is always “Il Silenzio,” a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of Holland ‘s liberation. It has been the concluding piece of the memorial concert ever since.

“This year the soloist was 13-year-old Dutch girl Melissa Venema, backed by Andr√© Rieu and his orchestra (the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands ). This beautiful concert piece is based upon the original version of “Taps” and was composed by Nino Rossi.”



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