Culver observes Memorial Day

Culver’s VFW Post 6919, as well as its Ladies’ and Mens’ Auxiliaries, observed the occasion at the Masonic cemetery in Culver. Culver’s fire department and EMS also took part, and Post Commander Bryce Lindvall discussed the origins of the holiday (as “Decoration Day” following the Civil War), in addition to a flag burning ceremony and 21-gun salute.

Culver Academies continued its more than 80-year-old tradition of observing Memorial Day with a solemn and regal Gold Star Ceremony, based at its Memorial Chapel and featuring Naval Vice Admiral (retired) Michael “Mike” Bucci, one of a small number of three-star Admirals in the U.S.. Bucci, former commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet and now president of Ocean Systems Engineering Corp., lives with his wife Marilyn in Bloomington, Indiana.

This year's ceremony concluded with a processional to the ground in front of the Chapel, where the Culver Military Academy corps of cadets conducted a Pass in Review, punctuated by a 21-gun cannon salute by the CMA Artillery Battalion.

Gun number one hosted three generations of the Wilkinson family, from the South Bend area: Alex Wilkinson, a CMA sophomore, as loader; his father, Jay Wilkinson of Granger, as assistant gunner firing each round (Jay served as an Army Artillery Officer with the 82nd Airborne Division); and Alex’s grandfather, a South Bend resident and former Army Artillery Officer and Korean War veteran, as ammo bearer. Alex’s sister Samantha is a senior at Culver Girls Academy and will graduate on June 3.

In his remarks, Bucci said he had been looking forward to his visit to Culver and described the campus as "magnificent."

"This is not the first time you've come to this chapel," he said, "and that means a lot to me."

Bucci was also impressed, he said, with the title of the ceremony, noting he applauded the Academy for its deep tradition of honoring "gold star" Culver graduates who have given their lives in service to their country.

"I have two different sets of emotions on a day like today," Bucci added, explaining he felt sorrow for the loss of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families, but also "thanksgiving for what they've done for our nation...and pride to be an American because of those sacrifices."

Bucci read and commented upon John McCrae's oft-quoted poem, "In Flanders' Fields," noting its lines encourage readers to continue the fight for freedom, but also warn us that, "if we don't carry on that fight, then those who have sacrificed will have sacrificed for naught, and those who should be resting in peace will not be able to."

Describing the impact of losing two young lieutenants in a flight training crash several years ago, Bucci encouraged the audience to "make it personal" when memorializing fallen soldiers.

He also quoted 23rd president Benjamin Harrison that Memorial Day needn't only be a day of mourning, but a day of "joyous, thankful memory," as well as Gen. Patton that, "We came to thank God that men like these lived, rather than regret that they died."

Noting many from Culver Academies "have given their all" for freedom, Bucci emphasized that "freedom shall prevail as long as we abide by and learn from the history of our heroes, our parents, and our loved ones who have given their all."

As is also a hallowed tradition of the day at Culver Academies, the names of those who gave their lives in each of the major conflicts since the school was founded -- including the global war on terror -- were read aloud.

Thanks to Gary Shaffer for assistance with this article.