Barron Police Chief and Marine Corps veteran Byron Miller was the guest speaker for the annual Memorial Day Observance in Barron Monday morning. Miller had a special message for veterans who might be suffering physical problems or emotional trauma: help is available.

Fast action by Memorial Day event planners in Barron saved the day Monday when the skies opened up approximately one hour before the Memorial Day parade down La Salle Ave. was scheduled to begin. A quick switch moved the ceremony to the Barron High School gym, where seating was already in place and a sound system set up after the Barron High School Friday evening graduation.

The service began at 9:30 a.m. with patriotic music by the Barron High School Band. The colors were posted by members of the American Legion, VFW and Am Vets, prior to a welcoming message from American Legion Commander Roger Bender. The Reverend Michael Nielsen from the Salem Lutheran Church in Barron presented the Invocation, which was followed by the singing of the National Anthem and recitation of the pledge of Allegiance prior to the introduction of Barron Police Chief Byron Miller, the Memorial Day speaker.

Bender said Miller was a member of the Marine Corps (a sergeant) and served in Operation Desert Storm, incurring service-related injuries. Miller referred to the those injuries during his opening remarks, saying many veterans are not aware of the many services available to them through their military service. He asked those present to be alert for some of the signs-problems veterans in the community may be having related to their service in addition to obvious physical injuries. “Many suffer in silence,” Miller said, adding that 22 veterans a day are committing suicide.

Miller’s address:

“Thank you Commander Bender, distinguished guests, officers, members and Auxiliary of our veteran organizations.

“Thank you all for being here today. I am deeply honored to be here with you today as we come together to remember and to honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s finest and bravest. There is a small fraction of our population charged with keeping us safe, with keeping our liberties intact.

“Most of you know me as the City of Barron Chief of Police. I am also a United States Marine Corps combat veteran, Past Commander and Lifetime Member of the Barron VFW.

“My parents were Byron and Lyla Miller. I grew up on a dairy farm near Prairie Farm and I graduated from Barron High School in 1983. Growing up, I always thought I would be a dairy farmer. Never did I imagine that I would be in the position I am today or have had the experiences that I have had.

My dad was a Sergeant in the United States Army and a combat veteran of WWII. He never talked about his time in the service and I never really asked him any questions prior to his death in 1984. I have a picture of him standing in the rubble and aftermath of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan when he was there from late November 1945 until January 1946. My dad was, and always will be, my hero. After my dad passed away, I enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1985-1993.

“My mom always told me that my dad’s wish was that I would never have to go to war. I believe that to be true for every parent. Whether we enlisted, were drafted, or however we found our way to the battlefield, we knew there was the chance of seeing combat. Most of us would do it all over again, regardless of the risk.

“While serving in the United States Marine Corps, I had the honor and privilege to visit many of the Pacific Theater battlegrounds of WWII.

“30 years ago, while I was deployed on a WESTPAC deployment, we were in the Philippines on Memorial Day. We attended the Memorial Day Services at Subic Bay Naval Base. This is a day I will never forget. That same year we made stops in Okinawa, Korea, Guam, Wake Island and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

“I was deployed again in 1990 on another WESTPAC. We were at Iwo Jima for the 45th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, and we climbed to the top of Mount Suribachi.

“Words can’t describe the emotions I felt, or the emotions I have today, knowing of the many men and women who died in these lands during battle for our freedom.

“I was a Sergeant and assigned to a combat unit as an Assault Amphibian Vehicle Crew Chief and Section Leader during Desert Storm. My unit was attached to Task Force Reaper and Task Force Papa Bear. We were tasked with the assault and retaking of the Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City.

“Memorial Day is a day we as a country come together to honor and remember our servicemen and women who answered America’s call to service and paid the ultimate price. The few who were so willing to give of themselves to defend their brothers and sisters, and their country. Memorial Day is the time for Americans to stand up and say, ‘Thank you. We remember you. We are grateful to you.’ We remember our fallen.

“We honor their loved ones. Their mothers. Their fathers. Their sisters. Their brothers. Their sons. Their daughters. Their friends. Every year, families of the fallen are joined together and bound by loss in a way most of us can’t even imagine.

“So please, spend some extra time with your loved ones. Step back from the daily stresses and reflect on your freedoms that so many of our sons and daughters died to protect.

“Thank you, and may God bless and keep you, our fallen, our veterans and active duty military, and the United States of America.”

Following Miller’s address, Auxiliary members Cindy Otto and Ann McEwen stepped forward tp place a wreath in memory of all servicemen killed in war.

A group comprised of Norm Yamada, Chuck Kirkwood, Lenore Berg, John Kirk and Ed Thompson then played a musical selection that identified the various branches of the military, with veterans standing up as their military song was played.

Chuck Kirkwood and John Kirk then raised their bugles to play “Taps”, a signal the program was coming to a close.

Bender again introduced Rev. Nielsen, who presented the Benediction, which was followed by the retiring of the colors by the color guard.