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Paying tribute to fallen comrades

Jim Miller ensures North Liberty’s deceased veterans are not forgotten on Memorial Day
Jim Miller watches as grandson Alex carefully places a cross at the grave of Maj. Edward P. Myers in the Ridgewood Cemetery in North Liberty Friday, May 22. Maj. Myers flew with the Army Air Force’s 401st Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group (Heavy), a part of the famed 8th Air Force, and was killed in action on Dec. 30, 1942, on a mission to attack German submarine pens at Lorient, France, from their base at Bassingbourn, England.

NORTH LIBERTY– Ridgewood Cemetery, off Scales Bend Road in North Liberty, is a bastion of history as it is the final resting place for many of the community’s settlers. It is also where 102 veterans have been interred, some after falling in battle.
For 12 years, Jim Miller has made it a personal mission to visit all 102 graves, and place a small American flag and a white cross with a red poppy for the Memorial Day weekend.
The effort this year started as he and fellow North Liberty American Legion Post 1976 member Mike Slade put up 55 large flags along the roadway of the cemetery, forming an “Avenue of Flags.” Miller and a crew made up of his grandkids: Kenzie, Alex, Caleb and Sully, placed the small flags and crosses over a three-hour period. Miller’s late wife Sue assembled the crosses several years ago, crafting them out of a resin material, which eliminates maintenance needs. Sometimes a headstone needs a little cleaning due to grass clippings or moss accumulation. Miller carries a scrub brush for this detail.
One such stone was that of Capt. David Stewart, a surgeon with Company E of the 28th Iowa Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Miller used the cleaning as an opportunity to teach the kids a little bit about Capt. Stewart, and the Civil War. Another stone receiving some extra attention this year was that of Maj. Edward P. Meyers. Meyers was a member of the Army Air Force’s 401st Bomb Squadron, a part of the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), which helped form “The Mighty Eighth” 8th Air Force. He was killed in action on Dec. 30, 1942, while on a mission to bomb German submarine pens at Lorient, France, during the early part of America’s pioneering daylight precision bombing campaign. Again, Miller took the opportunity to educate the kids about service and sacrifice.
Ridgewood is also where veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Black Hawk War (1832) lie in their final repose, leading to more history lessons. David Crozier, an early settler to what became North Liberty, fought in the Black Hawk War and his weathered stone lays at the base of a massive oak tree.
Miller served as a member of the Iowa Army National Guard from 1970 through 1976 as a dental assistant, and was a 32-year member of the North Liberty Fire Department (NLFD). Upon retiring from the NLFD in 2000, he joined the Legion.
“I do this to pay tribute to our fallen comrades,” he said. “If I don’t mark them, people would have no idea what’s out here.” For many, Memorial Day has become a day off from work, a day of parties and barbecues, and big sales in stores, and has lost its significance as a day to remember the nation’s war dead; a trend that saddens Miller.
“People need to be grateful for what we have,” he said. “Many sacrifices have been made by so few.”