JEFFERSON CITY — Don Hentges' memory of a fallen friend encourages him to continue honoring fellow veterans and the memories of those who have died.
The Jefferson City Veterans Council president was among the community members who gathered to honor veterans at the Jefferson City National Cemetery Monday morning. Nearly 250 people attended the program sponsored by the Jefferson City Veterans Council. The program included speakers, singing, the Two Bell Ceremony, a memorial firing and a playing of taps.
Remembering those who have served is very important, said Hentges, who served in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969.
Hentges has been involved in the Memorial Day program for 28 of the approximately 40 years it has been going on, he said. A promise made to a friend one day in Vietnam is what led him to get involved in veterans' programs. He and two other men, including his friend Willie DeMcVea, were out on patrol when an explosive mine wounded them. DeMcVea did not survive.
"I held him in my arms and said 'Willie, you'll never be forgotten,'" Hentges said. "We can't forget these people."
During the Two Bell Ceremony, community members recognized veterans who died this year. Names of 100 veterans were given to the Jefferson City Veterans Council, Hentges said. A bell rang after each name was read, and a poppy was placed on a wreath in honor of that veteran.
Virginia Rackers is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 5, which helps provide the poppies. Rackers said the organization orders approximately 4,000 poppies from the Veterans' Hospital each year to use and distribute throughout the year. Not only do the poppies memorialize veterans during the Two Bell Ceremony, they also financially support the Veterans' Hospital.
"You can imagine how many veterans we've honored in all the years doing this," Rackers said.
Many attendees were veterans, including brothers Steve and Dan Amick, who both served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Steve Amick served from 1966 to 1967 and Dan Amick served from 1969 to 1970.
Steve Amick is from Jefferson City; Dan Amick traveled from Alton to participate in the program.
"I think of all the friends I lost there (in Vietnam), and I think of their parents and family," Steve Amick said. "These people gave a lot. You know what they say – nothing's free, especially freedom."
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