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Lincoln County remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice

May 30, 2017 GMT

Memorial Day honors the memories of those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

The holiday differs from Veterans Day in November, which celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

The federal Memorial Day, set each year on the last Monday in May, was established as a time to decorate the graves of soldiers, and the tradition continued this year with ceremonies throughout Lincoln County.

A surprise visit from the Meadow Light Squadron flying P51 experimental aircraft brought out expressions of awe as the four airplanes passed over the 20th Century Veterans Memorial ceremony in North Platte.

The squadron is from Colorado and Kevin Kennedy, memorial board member, invited them to fly over on their way home from performing at the Fort McPherson Ceremony earlier in the afternoon.

John Gale, Nebraska Secretary of State, was the keynote speaker at the 20th Century Memorial service. Gale practiced law in North Platte for 29 years and has fond memories of the early workings to get the memorial going.

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“I thoroughly enjoyed my years here,” Gale said. “It’s a terrific town, terrific people and a lot of great things were going on including the development of this 20th Century Veterans Memorial.”

Gale said Bob Hinde and Don Craig, who spearheaded the movement to build the memorial were good friends of his.

“We bought our share of bricks to help things along,” Gale said. “We did what we could and (the memorial) is an inspiration to everybody.”

At Fort McPherson National Cemetery south of Maxwell, flowers brought bright colors set against the backdrop of the white stone markers with hundreds of American flags flying in the breeze.

Retired Air Force training instructor Marvin L. Donnelly of Hershey was the keynote speaker at the Fort McPherson ceremony.

“There are four Medal of Honor recipients buried here,” Donnelly said. “I think it’s very important for us to think about it and remember just what it took (to receive that honor).”

Donnelly shared a short history of each of the medal recipients.

At the ceremony the large crowd included people from the area as well as Omaha and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“My father and my uncle were in the Army before me,” said Jim House of Cheyenne. “My son’s in the Air Force and this is just a way to honor what they did.”

Jim said he has family buried at Fort McPherson, while his wife Sandy’s family is farther east.

“We come here and to the Wood River area where my family is buried,” Sandy said.

Closer to home, Ben Moser of North Platte said he attended the ceremony because he appreciates those who died for us.

“I’m here to honor the fallen who died and protected us and our freedom all these years,” Moser said. “I don’t have family buried here, but I do have family who are veterans that are buried elsewhere.”

John Bollish, of Omaha, is a junior in high school and he came with his dad.

“We’re here for the (Memorial Day) service,” Bollish said. “It’s a pretty special thing to see everyone here. I’ve never been to one before.”