- Published on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 23:24
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Loved ones, friends, residents and military organizations gathered to pay tribute to fallen soldiers from our town that paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
The first Memorial Day service I attended for a newspaper over 20 years ago, the weather was cold, windy and wet. My thoughts strayed from the speaker to the men and women who fought under much harsher weather conditions in Vietnam, fighting in fox holes and enduring heavy rains flooding in the cold jungles. Today it seemed ironic that our more recent fallen soldiers have been fighting in harsh
heat and desert conditions and we on Memorial Day felt just a small taste of the hot conditions today’s soldiers in the Middle East face.
Mayor Rummage commented on the weather saying, “Everyone seems to be concerned about the weather, I’ve been here when it was raining. I’d rather have the sun.”
Rummage welcomed the crowd by saying, “At every Memorial Day service we always seem to have a wonderful turn out. I thank you all for coming today.”
“I can never think about our fallen men and women in the service without thinking about those who made it, those who served and those who are serving. With that, I welcome you and God bless you all.”
Guest speaker Captain Peter R. Nette of the United States Navy, Dahlgren gave the Memorial Day address.
When it concerns the death of any human being, whether it is a loved one, friend or just an honorable citizen who has lost their life, words can rarely provide comfort to the grieving. When it concerns soldiers who give their lives for complete strangers who are fellow countrymen words cannot compare to the sacrifices given and Nette relayed this notion very well by quoting the words of former President Lincoln.
“There is no greater sacrifice than to die for one another,” Nette began. “When president Lincoln dedicated the battlefield at Gettysburg in 1863 he spoke of the inadequacy of words on occasions such as this, he said, ‘The world will little note, no longer remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,’ likewise it is with us today no words can match, what was done by so many in defense of our nation.”
Nette put into perspective the impact of war in our country saying, “In our first 100 years 680,000 Americans lost their lives in the next hundred years another 626,000 died.”
Comprehending the magnitude of so many lives lost to protect the simple concept of freedom can leave one speechless and unable to find the words to comfort each and every individual who is affected by death.
Remembering the sacrifices of our brave men and women, finding comfort must be done through silent words and prayers, we must search our souls for individual comfort from the perils of war. Thus we reflect in silence, praying and remembering.
Nette spoke of the evolution of Memorial Day saying, “The observance of this day was born of compassion and empathy in 1863 as the civil war raged.”
Nette explained that, as grieving wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and other loved ones were cleaning Confederate soldier graves in Columbus, Mississippi and placing flowers, they noticed nearby union soldiers’ graves being overgrown with weeds. The woman realized that the dead union soldiers were also cherished by loved ones, so they cleared the brush and mud from those graves as well and laid flowers. This lead to a tradition of Decoration Day of fallen soldiers, which spread.
On May 5, 1866 after the Civil War ended Henry Wells of Waterloo closed his drugstore and suggested that all other shops in town close for the day to honor the fallen soldiers. Sixteen years later, in 1882 the nation observed its first official Memorial Day.
Nette talked about subsequent Memorial Day events and services, but said in recent years some people have forgotten the true meaning of Memorial Day; instead marking it as the ‘beginning of summer’ or a day to enjoy family BBQ’s.
Nette complimented the crowd for keeping with the spirit of remembrance.
Nette credits the reasons for this disconnection with history to the fact that there are fewer veterans to share their stories and many from World War II, Korea and Vietnam tend to be silent.
Nette said that today’s troops are direct descendants from the troops at Yorktown and Normandy, and although the battlefields may have changed as well as the tactics used to fight wars, the cause is still the same, to protect the lives and freedoms of loved ones in the U.S.
Nette encouraged attendees to offer support to our troops both in the U.S. and abroad.
“We know that to protect freedom at home, we must promote freedom through out the world. We’re fighting a global war that has lasted for many years, requiring many assets and many sacrifices. We fight an enemy that is evil but effective, deadly and despicable. We can not underestimate this enemy ...”
Nette referred to 9/11 as the dark side of globalization.
“We live in a post 9/11 world and cannot afford to count on the good intentions of evil people. We simply can’t wait to be attacked. We must protect our country; that’s what the brave men and women of our armed forces are doing all over the world right now,” Nette said.
Nette closed by saying the best tribute we can give to our fallen soldiers is to wave the banner proudly, “May we never forget those who died, may we never fail to live up to their standards.”