Although the steady rain on Monday morning, May 28, may have disrupted some families’ beach outings or barbeques, the gray weather seemed appropriate for the America Legion Viggo E. Sewer Post 131 and Auxiliary’s Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony.
“We much more enjoy going to the beach and picnics on this day when everyone has off,” said American Legion Viggo E. Sewer Post 131 Auxiliary Post President Maria Lett. “Somewhere along the line we’ve lost the significance of this day and that is sad.”
A group of American Legion members — led by Post Commander Jerry Runyon — Auxiliary member Corrine Matthias and Lett, AARP members and a few onlookers gathered at the V.I. National Park Visitors’ Center around 9:30 a.m. to remember those who have died in the line of duty.
Flowers Tossed To Sea
With Shamaiel Charles’ notes of the “Star Spangled Banner” on the steel pan ringing through the air and American and Virgin Islands flags waving high, Auxiliary members threw flower petals and a wreath into the bay.
As the group marched through town to the Cruz Bay cemetery, Elmo Rabsatt, Past Post Commander, led the way with patriotic music blasting from the speakers strapped to the top of his vintage Mercedes Benz.
The significance of the day was not lost on any of the veterans or residents who gathered at the cemetery to watch a red, white and blue wreath be placed near several gravesites.
“We honor the memories of those who have given their lives for freedom,” said Runyon. “We renew our pledge of loyalty to our country and our flag.”
Although not quite his old self due to recent medical problems, Post Chaplin Andrew Yellen reminded the crowd why Memorial Day should not be forgotten.
“Eulogy for A Veteran”
“Let us guard our heritage and our pride in the memory of the dead,” said Yellen. “Let us pledge to our beloved land the same service, the same devotion secure to us and the peace for which our comrades died.”
An emotional Yellen, battling tears, then read “Eulogy for a Veteran,” by an unknown author:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
Charles played another touching tune on th steel pan as a hush spread through the crowd and even tourists on their way to the beach or back to their villas took a moment out of their days to remember the many men and women who gave their lives on battlefields across the world.
For many of the St. John American Legion members, those battlefield are more than just a distant memory.
Fallen Friends Not Forgotten
“After I served in several combat zones and lost a number of friends, this is the least I can do,” said Rabsatt. “We lay the wreaths and march out of respect and to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
“We feel honored to do this,” said Post 131 member Aubrey Sewer, after whose brother Viggo the local American Legion is named. “It is our duty as veterans and as patriotic American citizens to remember this day.”
Every resident throughout the Virgin Islands owes thanks to the veterans who fought to protect their rights, according to Lett.
“I feel that we need to be able to say tank you to our service men and women who have given their lives so we can enjoy freedom,” she said.