Monday morning, hundreds gathered at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Adel, near Van Meter, for the annual Memorial Day Service, which began at 8 a.m. Veterans, service men and women, adults and children who support our armed forces and who wanted to remember those lost in the line of battle, were in attendance.

The colors were presented and retired by the Cadets of the Red Bull Battalion, U.S. Army Junior ROTC from Central Campus in Des Moines, the invocation and benediction was given by CH (MAJ) Martha Kester of the Iowa National Guard, Iowa Veterans Cemetery Executive Director Jodi Tymeson and Van Meter Mayor Alan Adams gave welcome speeches, the guest speaker was Brig. Gen. Steve Altman, Deputy Commanding General for Maneuver of the Iowa Army National Guard, music was provided by the Young Patriots Club and the Sounding of Taps was played by Van Meter High School student, Rachel Allen.

A sentiment often expressed at Memorial Day services across the country is that Memorial Day weekend is not just another 3-day weekend for cookouts and that sentiment was not missing from Altman's speech. He stated that while Memorial Day is special, it is also “solemn.”

Altman specified that the meaning of Memorial Day is drastically different than that of Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day.

“Veterans Day pays tribute to every veteran who has served our great nation, while Armed Forces Day honors those who currently serve in the military,” Altman said. “What distinguishes Memorial Day from from every other holiday is so very simple. Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who have given their lives while serving our nation in the United States military.

“It is a truly American holiday.”

The tradition of decorating graves of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day began back on May 30, 1868. The day, back then, was called Decoration Day and was a day to decorate the graves of fallen servicemen in the Civil War, like Americans still do today.

People from all walks of life and all kinds of ordinary people from Iowa and across the country are honored on Memorial Day, including family, friends and loved ones.

“It is a deeply personal holiday,” Altman said. “It is a holiday where we remember serving with those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We remember their smiles, their service, their sacrifice, their dedication, how much they loved their families and how much they loved their lives, and how willing they were to sacrifice for others.”

Tymeson gave special thanks to those involved in the service and the volunteers from organizations that helped prepare the grounds for the service a week prior to the event.

“I know you'll all agree that the grounds look beautiful,” Tymeson said.

The volunteers included veterans and they helped place flags and flowers at the headstones in the cemetery.

Tymeson thanked the City of Van Meter for the support they give to the cemetery. During his speech, Adams spoke well of the relationship the city and the American Legion Post 403 have with the cemetery.

“This is a great place, hallowed ground for all of those men and women who served in the military, and their spouses,” Adams said.

Adams said that he recently attended a visitation for a 6-year-old child and it reminded him of how “precious and short” life can be.

“Today we gather to honor, remember and celebrate lives of many men and women whose lives were cut short in defense of their country, in defense of democracy and our way of life,” Adams said. “Everyday is a great day to thank a veteran, so as we go about our day today, just remember all of those who have fallen in service for their country and also keep in your prayers the men and women who are still serving and are in harm's way.”