Memorial Day services held at grave of the Rev. Billy Potter

The 2012 Memorial Day Service takes place at the grave of the Rev. Billy Potter with VFW Post 4345 and Auxiliary, American Legion 531, Prince of Peace Commandry 29 of Knights Templar, Masonic Lodge 183, guests and members of the Potter family.

The 2012 Memorial Day Service takes place at the grave of the Rev. Billy Potter with VFW Post 4345 and Auxiliary, American Legion 531, Prince of Peace Commandry 29 of Knights Templar, Masonic Lodge 183, guests and members of the Potter family. Photo by David Wilson.

The grave of the Rev. Billy Potter was selected to represent those honored on Memorial Day for the 2012 Memorial Day Service. In addition to family members, participants included members of the California Veterans of Foreign War Post 4345, California Masonic Lodge 183, VFW Auxiliary 4345 and Prince of Peace Commandry 29 of Knights Templar, Jefferson City. The Centertown American Legion Post 531 and VFW Post 35, St. Martins, were represented.

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Jerry Coale, VFW Post 4345, as the Memorial Day Service is ended with the playing of "Taps."

Potter was born April 11, 1930, and died March 13, 2009. According to his son David Potter, who spoke at the Memorial Day Service, being a Baptist minister, a member of the Masons and a veteran of the United States Army were all very important to him.

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Bernie Bestgen, VFW Post 4345, tolls the bell for those veterans who died during the last year.

Both his Baptist ministry and his Masonic work were based on Biblical truths. He used his Korean War experience to help guide people to Christ.

Potter was a decorated veteran, having been awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with V device for Valor and three stars.

He served in Korea in the three-day Battle of Chosin Reservoir. When the Chinese swarmed across the border and attacked, he was one of the last off the beach on Christmas Eve 1950.

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Hallie Cassil reads her VFW Scholarship winning essay at the 2012 Memorial Day Service.

He was wounded severely while repairing damaged communication wire forward of the position under enemy fire.

Potter lost an eye and spent a lot of time under medical care, from a M.A.S.H. unit in Korea, to Tokyo Hospital, then finally to a hospital in Colorado.

His calling to the ministry was the most important thing to him and he was asked to serve as pastor at a Baptist Church in St. Roberts. That church was attended by many soldiers on their way to serve in Vietnam.

Because of his own military service, he was able to relate to many of those who were headed for combat in yet another war.

Along with an active duty sergeant, he formed a mission at Fort Leonard Wood where soldiers on weekend leave could go instead of spending their time in the bars and other places often frequented by soldiers.

Hallie E. Cassil, Jamestown, read her VFW Scholarship winning esay, "The Pending Draw Down."

She spoke of the five-year 50,000 soldier draw down from Afghanistan which began in March.

With the planned draw down, projected troop strength by September 2016 will be 520,000, causing concern for many who realize the country is at war with a "very persistant and determined" enemy.

Currently, Cassil reported the U.S. military strength in numbers rank second after China, which "easily doubles our military strength." After the draw down, the U.S. forces would be outnumbered by several nations. Although China does not outnumber the U.S. in total land weapons, Russia does, with more than double the land weapons and aircraft of the U.S.

In addition, Cassil said a reduction in U.S. troops will be likely to increase the stress and workload on the remaining soldiers.

"With Syria's unrest and tension increasing between Israel and Iran, now is not the time to reduce our military troop numbers."

Members of VFW Post 4345 and the Ladies Auxiliary placed wreaths and other decorations on Potter's grave, which represented the resting place of many other veterans, then saluted as "Taps" was played.

The history of Memorial Day goes back nearly to the Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day when it began in 1866, it served as a day to honor America's fallen, Union and Confederate.

The name has been changed and it has become just another of the national holidays and three-day weekends. Although the meaning has been lost for many, it really is to honor the dead in American wars, recalling the valor and sacrifices of those who gave their lives so that others might live.

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