Post honors fallen Soldiers
May 31, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 31, 2013) -- A single bag piper played and a hush fell over the crowd to honor fallen service members who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
Soldiers, Family members and civilians gathered at Veterans Park May 23 during a Memorial Day ceremony to pay homage to fallen Soldiers.
"Today we pay tribute to those who have answered their country's highest call," said Col. Douglas M. Gabram, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy commander. "This holiday that we now call Memorial Day is designated to gather our strength and remember the sacrifices that are made in order to enjoy the freedoms we have today."
That sacrifice is one that Lt. Col. Eric Merck, French liaison officer at Fort Rucker, knows all too well, and something that he will never forget.
"I came to pay respect to my friend, (Lt. Col. Guy Demetz), who died when the Black Hawk he was in went down in Iraq," he said
Demetz was among 26 others who lost their lives in the Black Hawk crash, and his name is among those on a monument at Veterans Park.
Merck came out with his wife, Francoise, and son, Maverick, to lay a wreath at the monument and remember his comrade.
Gabram, CW5 Michael L. Reese, Chief Warrant Officer of the Aviation Branch, and Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Chandler, 110th Aviation Brigade command sergeant major, laid a wreath during the ceremony to honor all of those who gave their lives.
During the ceremony, Gabram shared a story he had heard in Fort Campbell, Ky., about a young private who stopped early-morning traffic in the rain to pay tribute to fallen Soldiers that had lost their lives in the Gander International Airport Newfoundland airplane crash in 1985. The crash killed 250 Soldiers, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division.
"It was close to Memorial Day and small American flags had been laid out next to each Soldier's memorial plaque," said Gabram to the audience. "(This) private jumped out of his car, into the pouring rain … and drenched from head to toe, picked up a small American flag that had fallen to the ground, set it up right, came to attention, saluted, then ran back to his car and drove off.
"That Soldier demonstrated the Army values more than 100 books and 1,000 lectures could ever do," he continued. "That simple salute and single act of honoring his fellow brother and his flag … said I'll never forget, I will keep the faith, I'll finish the mission, and I'm an American Soldier."
Gabram said that remembering and honoring fallen Soldiers is something that everyone should do always, not just one day out of the year.
"Memorial Day may last only 24 hours, and it occurs only once a year, but remember that our gratitude and pride should show every day," he said. "Remember those who fought and died for our precious way of life. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice and remember also the Families they left behind who are still paying the price."
After the ceremony, small American flags were given to those in attendance, so that they could personally pay respect and lay a flag at the monument of their choosing.
Jenna Gibbs, civilian, was among those in attendance to lay a flag.
"Coming out to honor those who came before us and paid the ultimate price is important in itself, but laying the flags at the different monuments makes it feel so much more personal," she said. "This is our way to personally say 'thank you' to those that paid that price so that I can be here today and enjoy what I do today.
"It makes me emotional to think of all the people that had to fight and die just so that we can live free in this country, and if you stop and think about it, it makes us extremely lucky to call ourselves American," Gibbs continued. "It really makes me proud to be a part of this nation."