By Mindy Ragan Wood
Dozens of patriotic citizens gathered for the annual Memorial Day ceremony to honor veterans for their sacrifice and service Monday at Yukon Cemetery.
“We’ve got veterans that have been buried here from the Civil War,” Knights of Columbus member and Yukon American Legion Commander Eddie McFadden said. “There’s a lot of history that goes way back here.”
One by one, members of the audience took to a podium to read from a list of names, in all 54 pages containing nearly 1,300 veteran’s names. Behind the podium where they stood was the Yukon Veteran’s Memorial, built in 1995 to bear the names of all veterans buried in the cemetery.
As participants took to the podium, they did not introduce themselves, but devoted every word to speak the names of those who made sacrifices for their freedom to speak.
Several who read had relatives who were servicemen, and one whose husband is deployed. Kim Steagall read names even as Jay Steagall is serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves in the Middle East.
“I did this to pay my respects to the people who have fought in service for our freedom. What better way to spend an hour on Memorial Day?” Steagall said.
The ceremony brought other expressions of patriotism. Retired Marine Corps veteran Myke Geers drove a 1952 Willy Jeep to the ceremony with a Marine flag flying. Geers, of Yukon, said his father-in-law Anthony Felder spent years restoring it. Now the nostalgic Jeep belongs to him.
“I had a Jeep in the military, but I had a driver so I never got to drive it,” he smiled. “I plan to put this in parades and wherever I can.”
Other supporters of the service included local Boy Scout Troop 390 who with Knights of Columbus member Chris Kastl marched to the flag pole and lowered the flag before the reading of names began. Dutifully they stood nearby until after the readings when it was time to raise it.
The cemetery was full of those who came to visit their loved ones, donning graves with flowers, flags and tending the grounds surrounding those they missed.
The ritual of visiting graves in Yukon began when the cemetery was established prior to the town’s founding. C.O. Bernard came to the quarter section southwest of where Yukon now stands and in 1890 their young daughter Winnie died and they wished to bury her close by in their yard. Later a neighbor’s child died and they asked to bury her close to Winnie.
A committee with M.V. Mulvey, Sam Hogan, J.A. Faris, D.A. Ott, T.N. Brooks and C.O. Bernard met to decide to try to form a Yukon Cemetery Association with at least 50 members and to try to buy 2 1/2 acres from the Bernards. They purchased the land the Cemetery Association has regulated ever since. They have acquired more land as needed over the years.