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Columbus readies for Memorial Day program

May 24, 2019

It was a moment Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley will never forget.

During the Department of Disabled American Veterans Convention last weekend at the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center, Bulkley’s late father was cheered for by those in attendance. The mayor had mentioned his father, who died on March 10 and would have been 98 this year, was a United States Air Force veteran who served during World War II.

“He was a great individual,” Bulkley said. “He was very humble - a very humble World War II vet. He did not talk about his service.”

So when the crowd started applauding after he mentioned his father, John, it meant a lot to Bulkley. It moved him.

“That was pretty special,” Bulkley said. “I was not a veteran, but we can’t do enough to say thank you to those who serve.”

That, in part, is why the mayor said he is always honored to be on hand for the Memorial Day celebration planned this year for 10:30 a.m. May 27 at Frankfort Square in downtown Columbus.

American Legion Hartman Post 84, of Columbus, is putting on the event in conjunction with the other veteran organizations in the area: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3704, DAV Chapter 20 and AMVETS Post 10.

Longtime American Legion member Dave Oppliger said the annual event, which has been going on for decades, is a great way to recognize loved ones lost who served the country. And that’s what Memorial Day is all about. Initially known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. It’s meant to remember and honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“We reflect on veterans who have passed away, so it means a lot,” Oppliger said, noting his late father was a veteran and was a source of inspiration for him getting involved with the American Legion. “A lot of people who come out and are there have loved ones – husbands, brothers, sons, people they know - who served in the military. Unfortunately, a lot of them have passed. But what is nice is that we get a really good crowd. The community backs us really strong on this. We also get very good support from the City of Columbus.”

A full lineup is planned for the gathering. Former Columbus High School teacher Jerry Meyers, who is now a historian at the Nebraska National Guard Museum and is a veteran himself, will serve as the keynote speaker. Oppliger noted Meyers was a key player in the development of the Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial in Columbus.

Other highlights for Monday’s program include the Hartman Post 84 Chorus performing “This Land Is Your Land” and “God Bless America,” a rendition of taps by Hartman Post 84 Honor Guard Bugler and the retirement of the colors by the Hartman Post 84 Honor Guard.

Bulkley, along with Nebraska State Sen. of District 22 Mike Moser, Columbus Chief of Police Charles Sherer, Fire Chief Dan Miller and Platte County Sheriff Ed Wemhoff are among the many community leaders scheduled to be in attendance. The mayor said he hopes people will come out and pay their respects, noting how wonderful it is to see a full display of American flags draping the downtown district that day and his appreciation to the volunteers who make it happen.

“I would most certainly ask anyone to come down or at least take a drive through downtown,” he said. “It’s a touching process thanking those who have done what they’ve done. What they do to honor our veterans and those who have passed is pretty amazing. So it’s an honor to be asked to be part of it.”

Oppliger said that if the weather doesn’t cooperate and it ends up being pretty wet and cold outside, the ceremony will be moved to the American Legion, 2263 Third Ave. in Columbus. But, he said, he’s holding out hope Mother Nature will cooperate.

“Pray it doesn’t rain,” said Oppliger, who served for years in the U.S. Army Reserves and did a stint during Desert Storm. “Just pray it doesn’t rain.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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