Memorial Day might be considered the unofficial start of summer, but few Americans forget the true meaning behind the holiday--especially at Fort Knox.

The installation held a Memorial Day ceremony at the U.S. Army Cadet Command headquarters Monday to honor service members past, present and future.

Approximately 400 people were on hand for the ceremony that featured the 113th Army Band and a 21-cannon salute by Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to pay homage to the men and women of the armed forces.

Memorial Day's origins date back to 1868, when the first large observance was held to honor those who fell while serving their country with "Decoration Day." More than 145 years later, the holiday has only grown since more and more members of the armed services have answered the call of duty amid the most trying of times.

Maj. Gen Jeff Smith, commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, served as the event's keynote speaker and shared his sentiments of why the holiday takes place.

"Over the years, Memorial Day has become a celebration, a day of cookouts, family gatherings, the unofficial start of summer, and it's appropriate to make this day a celebration--a day to celebrate our freedom," he said. "This is a day to remember those who made our freedom possible. It's a time to reflect on the brave men and women who have served our country."

Throughout the history of United States, brave men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice through acts of heroism that endure time. The acts of Pfc. David "Paulie" Nash on Dec. 29, 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War will not be soon forgotten. The Whitesville, Ky. native's bravery was celebrated at Fort Knox Monday with his mother, Stella Nash and family in attendance.

Nash received the Medal of Honor when he made the ultimate sacrifice on that fateful December day by rolling onto an exploding grenade to save the lives of three fellow Soldiers. The account of his heroism was shared with all those in attendance at the ceremony.

"Pfc. Nash could've very easily protected himself and not been injured at all, but he had a little different character and courage in him," Smith said. "He actually exposed himself to enemy fire and jumped on that grenade. In doing so, you can imagine what happened. He saved the lives of other Soldiers on his team that night. In doing so, by his gallantry and at the cost of his own life, he was awarded the nation's highest award for heroism--the Congressional Medal of Honor."

America's history is built upon great men and women who served this country on the front lines of conflict, but even after decades have past, the Army hasn't forgotten one of its own that gave everything for the freedom of many.

"Today, we have dozens of people here today to celebrate our freedom and the life of Pfc. "Paulie" Nash and I know his mother, certainly after all these years, still takes pride in knowing her son gave so much for his country," Smith said. "What an awesome man Pfc. Nash was. The ones he served with, the ones he fought alongside still to this day say he was a brave man and they will remember him for the rest of their lives."

Just as the lives of his three fellow Soldiers were forever altered by Pfc. Nash's actions, his tale of heroism still resonates decades later.

Smith concluded his speech by thanking Nash for the valorous service he provided to his country and conveying the sense of pride the Army takes in celebrating the life of one of its own.

"We're awful proud to be here and a part of you and a part of your family as we celebrate this awesome occasion," he said. "We thank you for all you've done for all your life to stand so strong in one of the toughest times of our nation and in a war that was so unpopular by the end of it. You could not be here with us today to recognize the true greatness and heroism, but our nation will always remember you."

The Nash family was presented a memento celebrating their son's service to his country along with an encased flag that flew over Fort Knox.

Fort Knox's Memorial Day ceremony concluded with a wreath laying and renditions of "America the Beautiful" and the "Armed Forces Medley" by the 113th Army Band.

Page last updated Fri May 31st, 2013 at 00:00