he sound of sacrifice echoed across the sun-splashed lawn of the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans.
A howitzer from a National Guard unit fired off a couple of shots that in recent years have become something of a booming signal for the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend locally.
So began the annual Columbus Indiana Philharmonic SALUTE! concert for veterans past and present.
An estimated crowd in excess of 1,000 included men in stars-and-stripes shirts, children waving mini-flags and even leashed dogs stretched lazily on blankets. To give the night a nostalgic, World War II feel, a train whistle even mourned in the distance just as the ensemble began to play.
“I like all this — the orchestra, seeing all the people, and really, the whole nine yards,” said Columbus’ Frank Kreps, who served with the U.S. Navy in World War II. He said it gave him a warm feeling to know that people could stay focused on the purpose of the holiday.
As he spoke, smoke from the howitzer mingled with that of a nearby grill with hamburgers. The gathering, which began in 2001, attracted its share of newcomers who looked over the throng and were impressed.
Bloomington’s Tommy Richardson attended at the invitation of Philharmonic conductor David Bowden and Bowden’s wife, Donna.
“We’ve heard such great things about this,” said Richardson, whose son-in-law recently returned from serving in Afghanistan. “This is such an honor for Columbus to do this kind of thing.”
Honor surfaced early in the performance when the Wright Brothers, the concert’s featured artists, sang songs for each branch of the military as veterans stood to applause from the crowd. Their harmony also rang out on tunes ranging from traditional tunes such as “America the Beautiful” to Harry Chapin’s pop ballad, “Mr. Tanner.”
Columbus’ Thomas Miller attended for the first time, finding a seat in the shade a few feet from the memorial, where bravery is etched in stone with the names of war dead. He noticed.
“It does matter that we do this (to remember),” Miller said.
Roger McFeeters and his wife decided to come to the event at the last minute. The Raleigh, North Carolina, residents were here to see the local architecture, and especially the Miller House, when they were told of the concert.
“It’s just our surprising good luck,” McFeeters said, “that we happened to be here.”