Memorial Day is a day of personal remembrance for VP Michael Bearth


Audrey Korte

Small American flags were placed at two cemeteries in Derby, Kansas in preparation for Memorial Day events. Student Body Vice President Michael Bearth assisted veterans organizations in placing them.

For Student Body Vice President Michael Bearth, Memorial Day is about more than hot dogs and hamburgers, pool parties and coolers full of beer. As a veteran of the Marine Corps, he sees it as a day of personal remembrance.

In the days leading up to Memorial Day, Bearth told The Sunflower he planned to use the holiday to “spend some time alone, thinking about my previous unit — the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division — my brothers and sisters who never made it back, and those we lost to their own hands upon returning home.”


He spent the weekend assisting the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion place small American flags next to the headstones of veterans and their family members at the El Paso and Hillcrest cemeteries.

Decorating the cemeteries traces back to the roots of Memorial Day, which became a federal holiday three years after the end of the Civil War. It was originally known as Decoration Day — a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

This time, Bearth and other volunteers decorated the cemeteries with flags in preparation for two Memorial Day events, one at each location.

The first ceremony was held by members of VFW Post 7253 at El Paso Cemetery. The second was held by members of the American Legion Post 408 at Hillcrest Cemetery.

Colonel Philip “Bruce” Heseltine, commander of the 931st Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, spoke at both ceremonies.

Heseltine entered the Air Force in 1993 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Utah. He is rated as a command pilot with 2,700 flight hours in T-37, T-1 and KC-135 aircraft.

The second ceremony began with Bryan Page, commander of American Legion Post 408, offering solace to those present who had experienced loss. After a short speech about the importance of the day, he turned it over to Heseltine.

Heseltine continued to express gratitude for those present and support to the families and friends of those buried there and across the nation. He shared a few stories of some of his airmen and friends. After the Colonel finished, the Commemorative Air Force flew overhead to pay their respects.

The group then observed a moment of silence before breaking. Legion members stood guard at the entrance as everyone broke off to pay their respects.

“While the nation’s fallen sisters and brothers in arms are missed every day, today is a moment we designate to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and us all,” Bearth said.

Bearth, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, was elected vice president in April alongside Kitrina Miller. He served as a veterans senator in the 61st session of Student Government Association.

A former Marine Corps battalion maintenance management chief, he also serves as WSU’s student involvement ambassador, PAVE advisor (peer advisors for veterans education), and president of WSU’s National Society of Scholars.

“For those who have lost loved ones to the service of our country, this day is an immensely difficult one to endure,” Bearth said. “It is important for us to remember to comfort each other through whatever means we can, and to also take care of ourselves because not every American understands the true meaning of Memorial Day.”

He said it’s not easy to reopen those wounds and share your vulnerability with others. But doing so helps people heal and remember.

“May we never forget those who gave, as President Abraham Lincoln once said, the ‘last full measure of devotion,’” Bearth said. “By remembering their lives, and by educating others about this day, we can renew our conviction to live worthy lives, to pursue our aspirations, and to continue to serve others.