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Memorial traditions return, veterans reflect

ALPENA, Mich. — COVID-19 forced Alpena’s military families to forgo the laying of wreathes and other memorial day traditions last year.

Thankfully, with vaccinations rising, people could gather again to remember the fallen.

Alpena’s wreath–laying ceremony began at 11 AM, not long after attendees from the courthouse event arrived.

Veteran William Romstadt, who served in Southeast Asia, opened the memorial with a prayer. Romstadt, who worked as a teacher in civilian life for about 60 years, told WBKB he often visits the local memorial wall.

“I not only see the names of people I recognize, but also students I had in class. And it does affect me emotionally. Because here are students I had in class that are no longer in this life because they gave their life at 18, 19, 20 years old.”

Following his prayer, veteran John Leask delivered an address to the crowd. Leask spoke about the courage of soldiers, the pain and fear of saying goodbye, and the sorrow of receiving a death letter. After veterans laid the wreathes at the crosses, the ceremony concluded with a rifle salute and the traditional taps.

Vietnam veteran Joseph Szatkowski says he’s glad to see the ceremony return, because it means his friends aren’t forgotten.

“I lost a few friends who I was in school with here. So I’ll always be here every memorial day as long as I can make it. And I’m so glad that everybody had an opportunity to come back this year.”

And now that memorial day is back, we won’t be forgetting his friends, either.