Please Honor Our Brave Men and Women Who Gave Their All on This Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a special day when we pause to remember those who have died defending the freedoms we enjoy. I have read the first such remembrance was in 1865 when a group of Afro-Americans honored 257 black soldiers who had died in a Confederate Prisoner of War camp near Charleston South Carolina. They had been buried in a mass grave, but their bodies were exhumed and given proper burials. The day was marked by a life celebration with over 10,000 in attendance led by approximately 300 school children. Modern celebrations of Memorial Day began in 1915.
It is fitting that we should honor the brave men and women who gave their lives defending the principles we hold dear. The ravages of war cannot be denied, and for families who have experience the sad news that a loved one will not be returning home from war, we can best share our sympathy by remembering the sacrifice they have given.
I am an Air Force veteran and it was during my first two years of duty I was selected to become a member of the USAF Honor Guard at Suffolk County Air Force Base. Over the course of those two years I served in many funeral details, many at Amityville National Cemetery. Although many, I never became numbed to the pain and anguish I saw in the faces of mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers as they sat oftentimes under tents as the American flag draped the coffin of their loved one, the morbid silence as taps was being played in the quietness of the moment broken only with sobs and the sound of the 21 gun salute.
Sometimes our duties required that we be posted at attention inside the mortuary before the service. Our Honor Guard always approached the coffin and rendered a final salute. We rarely had personal contact or anything more than the ceremonial duties with the families. Whether an Officer or Enlisted man, each soldier who had perished in battle was given utmost respect.
The tradition of Memorial Day holds a special place in my heart. My ancestors were Civil War Veterans and perished during the war. Both of my connections died from disease rather than from wounds of enemy fire. Both were over 35 years of age and had large families who were left to survive on their own. Life was difficult for them.
As a student in high school with the Viet Nam war raging, I will never forget the day when one of my classmates was summoned to the Principal's office and told his brother had been killed in action. How our hearts were broken for him. It would only be a few months later when a soldier from our community would be killed while on patrol near the DMZ in Viet Nam. He had volunteered for that duty and only had weeks before coming home.
We have a monument in our community where all the WWII veterans names are on a bronze plaque. Many of those names have stars engraved signaling they were killed in battle. Like most cities and towns, we also have other monuments honoring the fallen of all wars and veterans who have fought and died.
Memorial Day is not so much a time for family barbecues and picnics but rather a time we should pause and reflect on those brave men and women who died fighting for our freedom. So on Monday please pause and remember those heroes. Salute!!