When Culver’s VFW Post 6919 Commander Frank Setola invited Culver Military Academy’s Commandant of Cadets, Col. Mike Squires, to speak at the post’s Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning, it renewed a relationship that was the standard for several years.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and CMA would parade through downtown and out to the Culver Masonic Cemetery for its annual ceremony, Jeff Kenney, curator of the Culver Historical Museum, said. Because the Gold Star Ceremony could not be conducted live on campus, it was an opportunity for Squires to serve as the guest speaker.
Squires told those assembled for Monday’s ceremony that as Setola, who is a member of the Academies’ facilities department staff, took him on a tour of the post “it struck me how deeply service above self is engrained in our great town of Culver.” He noted that Culver citizens have “answered the call to arms” in every major military engagement from the War of 1812 to the current conflicts in the Middle East.
Memorial Day provides everyone with a moment of reflection, Squires said, as the community gathers to honor and recognize those who have answered the call “and ultimately given their lives in the service of their country.” Looking around the cemetery, “you’ll notice flags marking the graves of our Culver veterans.”
He noted the flags honor men like Patrick L. Finney, a 1933 Culver High School graduate, who enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940. He was killed in the Japanese raid on Hickam Field on Dec. 7, 1941. A flag also honors John Richard Shilling, a 1943 CMA graduate, who was killed during an attack on a German position in Gesso, Italy, in October of 1944. The VFW Post is named in honor of these two men, he said.
Other men honored include Capt. Steven McGregor, who was commanding an amphibian tractor company when he died on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The 1941 Culver High School valedictorian, Walter Kanczuzewski, was killed on the German front on Nov. 18, 1944. Pfc. Harold M. Bryant died in Belgium on Christmas Eve, 1944, as part of the Battle of the Bulge.
Squires added that 300 additional flags mark the graves of other Culver veterans at the Masonic Cemetery, and another 400 flags mark the graves of veterans buried in the nearby Bucklew, Zion, Washington, Cromley, and Burr Oak cemeteries. These men and women lay to rest after living out their days dedicated to their God, their family, and their nation, he said.
“Please join me in honoring their sacrifices and pray that Culver continues to remain ready to answer the call when it comes in the future.”