PITTSBURG, Kan. — A Memorial Day ceremony at the Pittsburg State University Veterans Memorial has been an annual tradition since the memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day in 2004. Like so many other things this year, however, Monday’s ceremony saw some changes from those in the past.

Anthony “Tony” Perez, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, who spent 22 years in service during the Vietnam War era, discussed the reason for those changes in his keynote speech at the ceremony — which was hosted remotely and broadcast online through a variety of video streaming platforms.

“Each military member takes an oath upon joining to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Perez said. “Our military has been tasked to respond to threats to our national security, however these threats are not always from hostile actors. As we have recently seen, they’ve been called upon to aid in the struggle against the COVID-19 virus by providing humanitarian aid and logistical support to states, cities, and communities.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included PSU Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets Esperanza S. Deterding and Logan Williams.

“Gracious God, on this Memorial Day weekend we remember and give thanks to those who have given their lives in service of our country. When the need was greatest, they stepped forward and did their duty to defend the freedoms that we enjoy and to win the same for others,” Williams said in delivering the invocation for the ceremony.

“These honored men and women gave the most precious gift they had — life itself — for their loved ones and neighbors, for comrades and country, and for us. Help us to honor their memory by caring for the family members they left behind, and ensuring that their wounded comrades are properly cared for, and by being watchful caretakers of the freedoms for which they gave their lives.”

In her remarks Deterding also discussed the significance of Memorial Day, and of the PSU Veterans Memorial.

“Memorial Day may be considered by many to be the unofficial start of summer, but the real reason behind it is to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by men and women who have died in service to our country and to honor their memory. This is a very special place to do that. One of the most prominent features here is the half-scale replica of the permanent Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC,” Deterding said.

“When we think about the names on that wall and the fact that each name is connected to families and friends who were impacted, we are reminded of what it means to be called to serve. It means putting your life on the line and sometimes sacrificing it for the greater good, for your country, and for your fellow Americans.”