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Then-Redding Recruiting Co. Commander Maj. Jimmy Chen is keynote speaker at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden Memorial Day event in Weed, Calif. Right, is Retired Navy Cmdr. Dean Whetstine, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. "Some say you die twice," said Chen in closing. "The first time is when you stop breathing; the second is when somebody says your name for the last time. May the legacy of those who made the ultimate sacrifice never be forgotten."

Former Redding Co. Commander addresses Northern California event

As his last major speaking role, then Redding Recruiting Co. Commander Maj. Jimmy Chen also spoke at a Memorial Day event in Weed, Calif. He shared that depending on service members currently serving in the military, you will get two points of view -- those who enlisted pre-9/11, and those who enlisted post-9/11. Chen falls into the pre-9/11 group and recalls a "garrison-style" Army, where boots were spit-shined (yes, we did wear black boots that had to be polished back then), uniforms were starched and ironed, and motor pool floors were scrubbed until Soldiers could, literally, eat off of them. In those idyllic days before 9/11, Memorial Day involved backyard barbecues, beer, and lots of flag-waving.

"Then, on September 11, 2001, everything changed," said Chen.

He told the audience that spit-shined, black boots gave way to tan, dust-encrusted desert boots; pressed uniforms gave way to worn, Velcro pockets; and those polished motor pool floors became so marred with tire and track marks that Soldiers forgot what color they were beforehand. As the eagle's head turned from the olive branch to thunderous arrows, our military found itself engaged in our Nation's longest war. Yet, despite the decade-long -- and still ongoing -- battles still waged in defense of our country and our national interests, across the Nation, from our fast-moving city streets to the sun-drenched plains of America's heartland, guess what?

"Memorial Day still involves backyard barbecues, beer, and lots of flag-waving," said Chen.
The war on terrorism spans two generations, and yet, while the uniforms may have changed, the spirit of those brave men and women who put the uniforms on have not.

"Some say you die twice," said Chen in closing. "The first time is when you stop breathing; the second is when somebody says your name for the last time. May the legacy of those who made the ultimate sacrifice never be forgotten."

Page last updated Tue July 2nd, 2013 at 00:00