ALTON, IL (KTVI) - For years, Alton's National Cemetery lay in disrepair. On paper, it was called a national treasure, but to Vietnam Veteran Richard Baird the crumbling gravestones were anything but. "It was excruciating because in my soul, spiritually speaking, the essence of our freedom and liberty comes from the bodies that the blood's been drained from on battlefields."
After a major clean-up effort the crisp tombstones and manicured lawn meant the cemetery was worthy of this Memorial Day ceremony honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The ceremony's featured speaker, Air Force veteran Richard Dansizen, brought the holiday close to home. He told stories of two Alton military school alums who make Metro East proud.
"Butch O`Hare actually took on a Japanese squadron by himself, and because of that he became the first Naval ace of World War II" said Richard Dansizen. "Paul Tibbots, who was also an alumni from the Western Military Academy, dropped the bomb on Japan that led to their surrender from his B-29, so because we had those two firsts and the last, a lot of people say that World War II actually began and ended right here in Alton."
Meanwhile, this Memorial Day's rain did put a damper on the ceremony's music and attendance. But, Baird says honoring fallen soldiers is a message always worth sharing regardless of how many people are listening.