Hill City remembers the fallen on Memorial Day

By Gray Hughes

LEST WE FORGET — The flag at the Hill City Cemetery on Memorial Day 2019 was at half-staff. The rain forced the Memorial Day rememberence ceremony inside, but each grave of a veteran still had an American flag on it placed by American Legion Post 160. [PN Photo/GRAY HUGHES]

Rain soaked Hill City on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.

The weather served as a stark reminder of the sacrifices of those who lost their lives battling for the United States.

At 9 a.m., a ceremony was held near the Slate Creek Gill as the Lions Club replaced the flag that flew on the flagpole.

While the flag was actually replaced the day before due to the weather, Robert Lowrey, a member of the Hill City Lions Club, said the club replaced the flag with one that could be seen from the other side of Main Street.

“Let this flag serve as a reminder of how lucky we are that we live in the Black Hills and the United States of America,” he said.

At 10 a.m., the Marion Fitzsimonds American Legion Post 160 from Hill City held its Memorial Day service at Hill City Senior Center.

The ceremony is normally held at Hill City Cemetery. However, bad weather forced the event indoors. The American Legion still put an American flag at every veteran’s grave in Hill City.

“We are here to honor those who gave their life to this country and those who have served who have since passed,” said Alan Case, post commander.

To remember those who are either prisoners of war or missing an action, a special chair at the front of the room was dedicated with the POW/MIA flag.

The ceremony featured a guest speaker, Lt. Col. George Nichols, the deputy commander of the 28th Mission Support Group at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Nichols previously spoke at the Hill City Veterans Day ceremony.

Nichols opened his speech by saying it is an honor and a privilege to be speaking to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“You and your fellow patriots of American Legion Post 160 continue to serve this grateful nation with a legacy that dates back to the early 1930s,” he said. “I thank you all for your continued service to the community, the armed forces each of you so valiantly served and to consistently set the example for our next generation of heroes. Your testimonies and legacies are very important and exactly what this great nation needs as we have been engaged in 18 years of continuous operations. Your actions and stories together only echo the stories of those that can no longer speak.”

This Memorial Day is harder than others for him, Nichols said.

Nichols discussed a friend and a fellow brother in arms, Army 1st Lt. Tyler Hall Brown.

“He traveled to every continent minus Antarctica, and many of the girls would agree, he had Hollywood good looks, he was a superbly fit athlete and he was an excellent student,” Nichols said. “He was a brilliant and very gifted man, and he was committed to a life of service in which he always found a deep meaning and purpose. Many could equate him as our modern day Captain America. He was exceptional, but he was killed by small arms fire when his unit was attacked by insurgents in Iraq near Ramadi (on Sept. 14, 2004), when they were ambushed. While, mortally wounded, he saved the lives by warning his men about the sniper fire that took him out. He laid there as we was hit in the upper thigh, insuring that his fellow comrades would not go into further harm’s way, and he bled to death on the battlefield only less than four weeks he was in country.”

Brown was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions in Iraq.

However, prior to his death, Brown had been commissioned into the Third Infantry Division that is known as the Old Guard. The Old Guard patrols the tombs of unknown soldiers and also assists with every military burial at Arlington Nation Cemetery.

As Nichols explained, Brown turned down this honor.

“He was one of the finest officers and humans I have ever known,” Nichols said. “He loved his men and they loved him in return.”

Nichols said he thinks of his friend every day as to not let his memory leave the earth.

Brown’s story, among many others, Nichols said, is what is left behind from what is scripted in our daily lives and actions, many without a face or a name left in silent state in cemeteries around the world without a name engraved in the cross or a headstone.

“At (3 p.m.), many of you will pause for a moment of silence, and I will do the same,” Nichols said. “We will do it in honor of those memories and stories we continue to share, like that of 1st Lt. Tyler Hall Brown. This year, I will be toasting my friend, my hero, my brother. Happy 41st birthday, Lt. Brown.”

After Nichols concluded his speech, which drew a standing ovation from those in attendance, the name of each deceased Hill City veteran was called — totaling 300 — with the names of three Gold Star mothers.

After that, “Taps” was played and then those in attendance sung “God Bless America.”