As Nikolas Kanizar walked back to his car in a crisp black suit and carrying his polished silver trumpet, he said playing “Taps” is about creating a moment for others.
“I just try to think about how I can express what everybody’s feeling as I’m playing and just make the moment for everybody there,” Kanizar, an O’Fallon Township High School student who just finished his junior year, said after the Memorial Day ceremony at the O’Fallon Veterans’ Monument on Monday. He was one of the two trumpeters who played the solemn military tune at the end of the ceremony.
“This event’s a lot bigger than, say, the monthly things or funerals because that just represents one person,” he said. “But this represents an entire nation of people who served, so it’s definitely more pressure.”
The estimated 600 people gathered at the monument for the annual ceremony who heard Kanizar play also heard U.S. Air Force Major General Michael Strough, the keynote speaker for the ceremony, thank military members for their service and sacrifice.
Strough said Memorial Day is a day to reflect on the 600,000-plus military personnel who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. He said citizens need to look past the statistics of those killed in war in order to fully appreciate what they gave up.
“It’s incumbent upon us to remember that within those numbers are individuals. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and close friends,” he said. “They came from different walks of life but shared many of the same qualities—they displayed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and, of course, ingetrity—all the qualities needed to serve a call larger than one’s self.”
We honor our fallen soldiers, Strough said, so that “their sacrifice was not in vain.”
O’Fallon City Clerk Phil Goodwin told the crowd that citizens can best honor fallen soldiers and veterans by living each day by the words of praise we give them.
“The highest praise is not to utter words, but to live by them,” Goodwin said.
Notably missing from the monument that features 15 stone tablets inscribed with the names of every service member who has ever lived in O’Fallon were two of those stone tablets.
City employees arrived to work May 11 to find the two tablets shattered on the ground. Police originally opened a criminal damage to property investigation, but there also was severe weather the evening before the damage was discovered and strong winds can’t be ruled out as the cause. Investigators remain stumpted about what actually happened.
“We have nothing to say either way whether it was an act of God or whether it was criminal. (Previous leads) haven’t produced anything to prove or disprove either theory,” O’Fallon Police Lt. James Cavins said Friday. “As of right now, there’s been no additional leads in the case. We are at a standstill hoping to get more information possibly from the public.”
Local residents acted quickly after learning of the damage. A grassroots fundraising campaign spearheaded by The Spengler Company coupled with a handful of large donations from area residents, businesses and veterans’ groups helped generate more than enough money to pay for the cost of replacing the tablets.
“There’s an awful lot of support behind this,” Goodwin said. “We’re hoping to get everything fixed and up well before Veteran’s Day.”
Counting the 24 new names dedicated on the monument Monday, the total number of names honored there reached 1,748.