Old Glory billowed in a gust of hearty wind Monday as she was lowered down the flagpole during a Memorial Day service at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West.

As the service drew to a close, hundreds stood at attention and saluted as the cemetery flag was changed by Robert Aldridge, Ted Wood, Bud Wink and Ray Joiner.

“It’s good to gather at a place like this … a final rest for so many people,” said U.S. Army retired Chap. (Col.) Richard Cooper, guest speaker. “This is sacred soil in a very real sense. Heroes and Heroines are buried here. We are here today to remember, honor and ultimately ensure that the death of everyone who has given their life in defense of this country is not in vain.”

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a holiday dedicated to honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

People scattered throughout the thousands of sun-bleached tombstones in search of their loved one before and after the service to pay their respects.

“I don’t have any illusions about this day and what I might contribute to the silent testimony given by those who gave their life willingly for this country they cared so much about,” Cooper said. “My words … anyone’s words post-death are feeble. They are made even more feeble as we gather in sight of the many tombstones that represent millions of years of service to this nation and countless lives that have been given in its support.”

Among the nearly 4,200 people who are buried at the cemetery, 18 were killed in action, Cooper said. There also are service members buried there who fought in the Global War on Terror.

“The markers you see around you are symbols of a strong and good nation that stands in silence in memory of men and women who loved their country enough to die for it,” he said.

The service opened with the Presentation of Colors performed by Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard commanded by Quentin Stone. Riflemen Junior Letts and Ken Cunningham, and flag bearers Tommy Shehan and Bob Englert served in the honor guard.

The service also included the placement of a wreath by John Brame, commander of VFW Post 1913, and Richard Stanley, cemetery director. Afterward, Johnny Brown performed TAPS and the service was closed with a prayer given by Chap. William Poquette, VFW Post 1913.

Cooper thanked everyone for remembering the true meaning for the holiday.

“Each generation remembers those former generations who have given their lives for the freedom we currently enjoy. I can’t thank those who remember enough,” he said. “May each memory you have be a blessed one. May each person gathered here be blessed by the recognition of the service of those who are buried here. May each of us carry on the banner of freedom for which they served and died.”

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