“Semper Fidelis” is the motto of the United States Marine Corps. Thirteen Marine veterans, two Navy veterans and one active duty Marine were “always faithful” as they hiked from the outskirts of Dallas Center to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery north of Van Meter in celebration of the men and women buried in the cemetery.

The third annual Memorial Day Hump was organized by Ken Dickerson. Dickerson, a Waukee native who currently resides in Grimes, spoke to the group of 16, along with family and friends, after they hiked the six miles to get to the cemetery.

“With the weather, I anticipated not many people showing up. When I arrived at our starting place this morning, it was incredible to see this many show up,” said Dickerson.

Ben Dickerson of Waukee, Ken’s brother and also a Marine, was among the group of 16 who hiked to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery on Monday, May 27.

“We do this for people that aren’t here with us. That’s why we do it,” explained Ben after he participated in his third Memorial Day Hump. “It’s for them, not for us.”

After hitting the top of the hill, the group made their way to the resting place of Joshua M. Davis, a Lance Corporal with the USMC who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. Davis is from Perry. The Patriot Guard riders provided an escort for the group of hikers as well as a guard at Davis’ gravesite.

Ken Dickerson thanked everyone for coming and braving the weather.

“I think everyone of us here, or at least I’m confident that everybody here that did the hump with us this morning knows someone who has gone in the line of duty or has lost the battle at home,” said Ken as he choked back tears.

He added that one such individual that the group honored during the May 27 event was Davis.

“Today is about all those that have gone before us. It’s not about us,” Ken said. “We do this and we’re going to continue to do this every year.”

He wants to see the event grow each year as the group works to give back to other veterans in need.

“We’re going to try to raise more money for more veterans organizations so we don’t have guys continuously losing the battle at home,” he stated.

Ken summed up his speech by telling everyone to “celebrate today, not be upset, but celebrate those that have gone before us.” Before departing the cemetery the group had a salute to Josh and visited a few other gravesites of friends and family.

The cemetery was full of visitors paying respects to the men and women buried there. One visitor who declined to give his name stood in front of the gravesite of Todd Prichard. When asked if he knew Engineman Prichard, he said yes with tears in his eyes. The visitor explained, “He was a great man. The only thing wrong with him, was his love for the Green Bay Packers.” And then he laughed.

While Memorial Day has different meanings for different people, this day at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery saw celebrations, memories, tears, laughs and visits from the always faithful.