A few months ago it struck me that my Dad (John Mahler, who now lives in Georgia) would be celebrating his 75th birthday in the same month that I’d be celebrating my 50th, and so I had the brilliant idea (I guess everyone gets one per lifetime) of meeting in his hometown of Henderson, Kentucky to celebrate a 125th birthday party together. That little kernel of an idea coalesced into – with the help of many family members – two family reunions over the course of Memorial Day weekend.
My Dad and Mom (Jane Mahler [Knight]) come from truly amazing and wonderful families, and it had been a long time since I had enjoyed so much fantastic food with so many great relatives, but what struck me most about my visit was the way that Henderson observed Memorial Day. As a long-time resident of San Diego County, I would consider Henderson County, Kentucky as somewhat small in both size and population, but she is truly a giant in the way she honors those who have served, and all communities would do well to emulate her in this regard.
Surrounding their war memorial in downtown Henderson’s central park there were 4,380 white crosses, each inscribed with the name of a U.S. military veteran and decorated with an American flag. Each cross represented someone from the County who had served and died (either during their military service or subsequently). It was solemn and beautiful and moving and appropriate. And all the more so because I knew some of the names, and the names of many more who will one day be displayed there.
On Memorial Day itself a public service was held in that park – the most moving and appropriate display of God-centered patriotism I’ve ever encountered, and several times I was moved to the brink of tears. The mere six relatively easy years I spent defending the Constitution pales in comparison to the service of so many, but I must say that whatever service I did give was amply rewarded on Monday by the brave and unashamed use of the freedom of speech exhibited by the people of Henderson, who publicly thanked God for the privilege of being that rare person known as an American, and who thanked Him for our nation, it’s heritage and its many blessings.
After a wonderful service we all joined voices to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful and God Bless the USA, followed by a 21-gun salute and ending with Taps. Few things move a military man or veteran like that simple tune on the bugle, for we all know that we once gave an oath that might see the still air above our own flag-draped coffin pierced by it. I was once again reminded that only a good nation would give so much blood, life and effort to see others remain free, and ask so little from them in return. And only a good County is stalwart enough to not break faith with such men and women, and with the inspiration of Heaven that has always driven such service.
Fair winds and following seas:
Roy Crenshaw (grandfather).
Jimmy Cunningham (uncle).
Raymond Sigler (uncle).
Randy Shiver (uncle).
Ralph Posey (uncle).
Ray Sigler (cousin).
Thank you, Henderson. America is fortunate to have you, and this Californian counts it a distinct honor to have Kentucky in his veins.
11 thoughts on “4,380 Crosses”
Son, that was a wonderful posting. Like you I WAS moved to tears during the ceremony. I am so proud of my hometown of Henderson for the wonderful observance of Memorial Day. A Veterans Day observance is also performed, with of of those crosses placed in the park by middle school students. I feel honored that one day I will also have a cross there.
Thanks, Dad. And thanks for your 26 years of service and a lifetime of inspiration!
Thanks Pastor Barry, For reminding us that we live in the greatest country the world have ever known. The reason that we are who we are is because we are built on a sure foundation. Our God is an awesome God, who blessed us with the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Very well spoken. Our freedom and safety. THANK YOU TO ALL THE VETERANS WHO DID SERVE AND TO THE ONES THAT STILL SERVE. MY DAD SERVED (JACK W. BROCK) passed away in 2010.
Thanks Barbara, and a hearty “amen.” God bless you and your family!
There is no one I ever met who , from my perspective, deserves a happy life. Your latest life experience only confirms that.
Thanks for being my friend
I e, ” deserves it more than you.” should have been a part of the previous comment
Thanks Lou – that means a lot to me!
Great article. Like you, I was very moved by how Henderson, KY honors those who server their country. I was not there for the Memorial Day Service but hope to experience it in the future. I also love how they get the High School kids involved in setting up the crosses in the park so that there will be future generations who will carry on the tradition.
I read your kind words about our community Memorial Day service. Henderson is serious about its respect for those who wear and those who wore our Nation’s uniform and served. Our Henderson War Memorial Foundation has a website where we also list the names of all deceased veterans as well as we have photos of our recent ceremonies.www.hendersonwarmemorial.org
Well done, Malcolm! I think that all communities would do well to follow Henderson’s wonderful example, and I hope to be able to experience it again in the coming years.