A memorial to former prisoners of war and combat veterans still missing was dedicated at Veterans Memorial Park Friday afternoon.
"Our nation recognizes today, Sept. 20, 2013, as National POW/MIA Day," said Jerry Bumpus, retired Army first sergeant and chairman of the veterans organization that is developing the park. "We have gathered this day to dedicate this beautiful monument."
The front of the monument is engraved with the POW/MIA symbol and a list of all 17 wars the United States has fought. Engravings on the back of the monument depict the American eagle and the official seals of the branches of military service.
Bumpus served as the master of ceremonies for the program that included a performance by the Rolla High School marching band and flag corps, the Bulldog Brigade.
Just before the band's performance, director John Slowensky told the assembled crowd that this year's competition show is "Journey to Freedom."
That show was especially fitting for the dedication of the memorial. In addition to the music performed by the band and the choreography by the flag corps, the program includes a soundtrack of taped quotations from Presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy and others about freedom and its cost.
Slowensky said the band dedicated that performance to the veterans present and to the memories of those killed or missing in action.
"We would not have had this monument for today's ceremony if it were not for some very important people," Bumpus said after the performance. He listed these:
n Jeff Grisham and his work crew who formed the walkway and pad and poured the concrete.
n Larry and Sarah Anson, owners of Phelps County Monuments, who donated the monument;
n Gene Gabriele II, owner of Gabriele Crane Rental Inc., who lifted the 5,500-pound monument into place.
n Sue Eudaly, who donated the money for the two benches set into the pad.
The POW team from the Disabled American Veterans chapter 49, Crocker, gave a repeat presentation of the POW/MIA ceremony. Retired Army First Sgt. Ray Kidd, retired Sgt. 1st Class Mark Mortensen and retired Master Sgt. Ed Lemay, with the chapter 49 color guard, presented the ceremony of a table set for a missing serviceman.
Near the end of the program, Susan Elliott Gilbert and Mike Elliott, niece and nephew of Capt. Edgar Lanning, Rolla, who is still missing in action from World War II, placed a memorial wreath in front of the memorial.
"Capt. Lanning of Rolla was reported missing in action on Dec. 3, 1944, while flying his aircraft over the English Channel," Bumpus said. "His aircraft was seen going into the water and was unable to be recovered. The family was notified on Dec. 6, 19044, by Headquarters 61st Troop Carrier Group."
Page 2 of 2 - The program closed with Slowensky playing taps.
Slowensky and the RHS band played important roles in the ceremony from beginning to end, for in addition to taps and "Journey to Freedom," the band also led the crowd in the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of the dedication program.
Myrlen Trout, a Korean War veteran, gave the invocation and the benediction. He thanked God for those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom for others. He also asked that God would direct our national leaders to turn to Him in their decision-making, that the next generation would know that freedom is never free and that everyday we would live in such a way that Jesus Christ would be honored.
Bumpus picked out various dignitaries for recognition, some present themselves and others represented by staff members: Eighth District U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, Missouri 16th District Sen. Dan Brown, Missouri 121st District Rep. Keith Frederick; Larry Sexton, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army; Rolla Mayor Bill Jenks III and Phelps County Commissioners Randy Verkamp, Larry Stratman and Gary Hicks.