Every Memorial Day, the City of Portage holds a beautiful ceremony to honor our country’s fallen heroes and thank them for their sacrifice. This year’s Memorial Day Service was just as touching as everyone hoped it would be as veterans, gold star family survivors, and countless community members gathered in Founders Square to remember all the soldiers who didn’t make it home.
The tradition of holding a Memorial Day service instead of a parade or a party has become deeply meaningful to the Portage community. At the event, Portage Mayor Sue Lynch emphasized how important it is for people to remember what Memorial Day is truly about, and as the community members bowed their heads in remembrance, it was clear they felt the same way.
“I just want people to understand what Memorial Day is really all about-- the soldiers we have lost and their families,” said Lynch. “I used to work in a cemetery several years ago and got to know several Gold Star mothers and talking to them made me realize that we tend to forget about them. They’re so important because they have lost a family member forever and they’re still here suffering that loss every single day. It’s important that we constantly remind people what today is about.”
This year’s Memorial Day service had one of Portage’s biggest turnouts yet. It meant a lot to Lynch to see so many people come out to the event, especially the Portage High School choir students who sang several beautiful songs during the ceremony, and Portage High School’s Junior ROTC, who were the Color Guard and gave the 21 gun salute.
“Not only are they singing beautiful songs that the audience loves and make people feel deeply, but they’re learning about what’s going on here today and why we’re doing it. I feel like by osmosis, they’re getting it. It’s up to us to continuously teach the younger generations about our veterans and the people who have bravely served our country,” said Lynch.
Congressman Frank Mrvan and State Representative Chuck Moseley were also in attendance. Both Mrvan and Moseley serve on Veteran Affairs Committees and were excited to attend such a heartfelt event.
“The City of Portage always puts on a first-class Memorial Day Service. I’m honored and privileged to be here,” said Mrvan.
The congressmen spoke about how vital it is to honor the soldiers who gave their lives for our country and explained that there’s no better way to honor those soldiers’ memory than by aiding their fellow soldiers who made it back home.
“I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we can better remember our fallen veterans. I wondered, if our fallen heroes were here with us today, how would they ask to be remembered? I’ve realized that the best way to remember them this day and every day is to remember their brothers and sisters who made it home. When it comes time for our soldiers to come home it’s important that we help them learn how to be civilians again and give them the resources so that they have the opportunity to live the American Dream they fought so hard for,” said Moseley.
The congressmen’s words were truly moving, but what was even more special was Fire Chief Randy Wilkening’s call of remembrance for Frank Gilbert, who is the only firefighter in Portage to have ever died in the line of duty.
Gilbert was an active member of the US Naval Reserve and before he passed away, he would often volunteer for extra duties during the summer because he wanted to help his Marine Corps unit as much as he possibly could. This year’s Memorial Day marked the 26th anniversary of his death.
“Frank may not have died as a result of his military service, but it’s fitting for this to be the anniversary of the death of a man who had such love for his fellow man, his community, and his country. We should always remember Frank and the job that he did and the sacrifices he made,” said Wilkening.
This year’s Memorial Day service ultimately couldn’t have been a bigger success. The City of Portage is grateful to everyone who attended and took the time to remember America’s brave soldiers.
“I just want to thank everyone who came out here today to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice as well as the American Legion and Joyce Russell from the mayor’s office for putting together today’s program,” said Lynch.
To learn more about the City of Portage, visit https://www.portagein.gov/.