Honoring the fallen and those actively serving: Wichitans celebrate Memorial Day

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For many, Memorial Day is a chance to honor those who have fallen and say thank you to those currently serving.

At Resthaven Mortuary & Resthaven Gardens of Memory, although the rain may have changed the way its Memorial Day service was intended to look, it didn’t stop loved ones from honoring those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

“This is an opportunity to pause and say, ‘Hey you know what, we really appreciate you,’ and for some of them, that may be the first time they’ve ever heard that. So, that’s what I really love about this day,” said Col. Phil Heseltine, Wing Commander, McConnell Air Force Base.

In the Resthaven chapel, the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless the USA played, while in the cemetery, flags marked the graves of those lost too soon.

“Memorial Day is really special because again, Americans got together and decided, ‘Hey, we need to pause and reflect and honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in uniform,” said Phil.

For military families, the significance of Memorial Day is magnified. The Heseltine family is the definition of service.

“We moved, how many times in the Air Force? Twenty-five times in 29 and a half years,” said military parents, Bruce and Peggy Heseltine.

Bruce Heseltine enlisted in the Air Force in the 1960s, Peggy, his wife, is a daughter of a WWII veteran, and their two sons, are currently serving in their respective duties in the Air Force.

However, the years of sacrifice were not at the forefront of their minds Monday, but rather the sacrifice of others.

“Thousands of coastguardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardians, and marines stand watch on post and at the ready to lay their lives on the line to preserve our freedom,” said Phil.

The Heseltine’s say the privilege of serving has come with challenges but has been an honor.

“It’s really been just a great opportunity to be a part and serve and wear the cloth of our nation,” said Phil.

Looking back, the Heseltine’s say they cherish every moment.

“I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything really,” said Peggy.

The Heseltine’s say they feel fortunate they have not lost any family members while serving, but pay tribute to those that have. 

The service at Resthaven was the first celebration since 2019 after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID. Next year, officials hope the full celebration will go off without a hitch, weather permitting.

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