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Memorial Day ceremony returns to Springfield’s Missouri State Veterans Cemetery after year hiatus because of pandemic

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 8:07 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - While the Memorial Day weekend traditionally signals the unofficial start of summer with the opening of swimming pools and families heading to the lake, it is important to remember what the holiday represents.

And after not being able to have Memorial Day ceremonies to honor fallen veterans last year because of the COVID-19 panemic, the ceremonies returned to the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery on Monday.

It was quite a contrast to Memorial Day 2020 when people were being told to stay away from large gatherings and everywhere you looked signage warned us of the dangerous world we were living in.

But for those who serve in our military, there doesn’t have to be a coronavirus pandemic for the world to be dangerous. And while Veterans Day recognizes the service of all American veterans, Memorial Day is to honor military members who have died.

“For me Memorial Day is personal,” said Colonel Mark Costello, who spent 31 years in the service from 1980-2011. “Having served as a career soldier and served in combat I understand the difference between veterans and Memorial Day is an enemy bullet.”

Costello and his son Major Nicholas Costello both know about the fine line between life and death as both were wounded during their military service yet survived....able to attend the Memorial Day ceremony in-person as opposed to being one of the casualties being honored at the event.

“My son and I both wear the Purple Heart,” Costello said. “So it’s kind of personal to us to reflect on this day. I reflect on it every day. It’s who I am.”

In speaking to the crowd during the ceremony Costello paid tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by quoting scripture.

“‘Greater love has no one than this....that he lay down his life for his friends,’” Costello said. “Today we honor those who have paid the price to ensure our freedoms. Today we remember veterans who have moved from this life into a peace not found on earth. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

Costello also pointed out that the U.S. has played a major role in fighting for the freedom of other countries all across the globe.

“When we show up as Americans, especially in a country that we’ve protected from some kind of tyranny, they love us.”

But Costello said that admiration is not always as noticeable here at home.

“What’s hard to take now with what’s going on is that people have forgotten that we are all Americans,” he said. “By the grace of God we live in this country. No matter our color, our race, it doesn’t make any difference. I told my wife, ‘It’s sad for an old soldier like me to watch what’s going on because people have forgotten. They have forgotten.’ It disappoints me but then I see the young people who are still stepping up.”

So while a lot of people may spend the Memorial Day weekend recreating rather than appreciating what the holiday actually stands for, Costello asks that everyone not forget to count their blessings.

“Take a moment to pause and remember those who make possible your tomorrows and how you spend your weekends,” he said.

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