ALTON, IL - A time to reflect while paying their respects. That’s what many people did at the 14th Annual Sunset Service at the National Cemetery in Alton Monday night.
Participants include high school and middle school students from Alton High School and Alton Middle School; plus, the Alton High School R.O.T.C. Cadet Color Gard and Saber Team.
The annual gathering is personal for veteran Sandra Larochelle who brought her husband, also a veteran along with their young daughter.
“I want to make sure that she (her daughter) grows up understanding the importance of honoring our veterans, honoring people’s service in the military and especially those who have lost their lives in the wars that we fight every day,” Larochelle said.
“It’s very emotional. There are lots of people that lose their lives daily in what we do and in all branches of service. I know my husband’s friends have died in battle and I have known people that have lost their lives so it is personal.”
Giving the salutations was Melissa Reyes, director intern with the National Cemetery Administration. She too is an Army veteran.
“To make sure that you come home safe and if you are blessed enough to come home and your battle buddies don’t, then you honor them and memorialize them until you can’t anymore,” Reyes said, “that is your duty.”
Leading the charge from the beginning is Richard Baird. He said that even with the recent flooding that has impacted several other parts of Alton, he had no worries about continuing with putting on the ceremony.
“The only thing that would have shut us down if there was a severe weather storm,” Baird said, “we have been here in the pouring rain and the hottest weather and we will be here every year.”
Baird said that he is looking to expand the annual event by getting more sponsors and adding entertainment so if you’d like to help contact assistant director, Darrell Ryan at 314-845-8320.