CUSTER COUNTY—Since the late 1860s Americans have designated a day to honor those who died while serving our country. According to the Memorial Day Foundation, more than forty two million American men and women have served in the military in various times of war. Congress officially declared the last Monday in May as a national holiday in 1971 in which many businesses are closed and graves of soldiers are decorated with flowers and flags.
Veterans throughout Custer County honored those soldiers who have died by hosting community services on Monday. Air Force veteran Edith Runyan Deuel, originally from Mason City and who now lives in Gibbon, said it was wonderful to partner with other communities to celebrate Memorial Day.
“We worked together for Memorial Day so I was able to be at Westerville, and Ansley, and then some of the Ansley Legioneers came down and helped us at Mason City and it was a beautiful day! It didn’t get rained out like it did last year,” Deuel said.
In Broken Bow, a service was held at the Veterans Building and included the color and honor guards, firing squad, National Anthem, placing of tributes, salute to the dead, Taps, and a Memorial Day address by Jamie Jakub with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Nebraska.
Adjutant of Chapter 41 of the DAV Jerry Bigbee was in the United States Army and said it was a privilege to serve. Memorial Day brings back a lot of memories for Bigbee, who has been in the DAV for 35 years.
“It’s just a wonderful time to get together with fellow veterans of Custer County,” Bigbee said.
Edith Deuel is now a member of the American Legion and works to inform veterans of the serious risk of suicide and resources that are available. She said suicide is the tenth leading cause of deaths across the United States and it is estimated that veteran suicide represents about 22% of those deaths. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, about 20 veterans a day die from suicide.
American Legion members like Deuel encourage everyone to work together by communicating about the resources available for this nationwide health issue.
“We do need a cooperation between federal, state, and local groups, not just the American Legion, but all local groups to help each other out and help veterans,” Deuel said.