Remembering the sacrifices of the nation's fallen
June 6, 2014
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- On Memorial Day -- a national day of remembrance, recognition and honor -- members of local patriotic and military organizations joined with the families of the area's fallen for the annual tribute at Maple Hill Cemetery May 26.
Taps was played, there was a rifle salute, the Huntsville Concert Band and singer Bob Smith performed patriotic music, and memorial wreaths were laid at the base of the cemetery's Veterans Memorial as the bagpipes sounded.
Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, said Memorial Day is not only a day to remember the sacrifices of fallen service members, but also to "recognize the loved ones who have been left behind."
Of the more than 1,200 veterans buried at Maple Hill Cemetery, four stand out as representatives of the cost today's military families have paid to protect the nation's freedoms, Mann said. They are Cpl. Andrew Chris, killed in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 25, 2003; Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Loggins, killed in Anbar Province, Iraq, on April 26, 2007; Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hall, killed in Afghanistan on June 1, 2009; and Capt. Wade Ramsey, killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 4, 2011. Chris is buried in section 105, and the other three are buried in section 36. While family members of other fallen service members who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were also honored at the ceremony, their loved ones are not buried at Maple Hill Cemetery.
Speaking to all family members and friends who have lost loved ones in any of the nation's wars, Mann said, "Thank you for helping us to remember your loved one's service and sacrifice. Thank you for helping us remember that freedom is not free. Thank you for helping us remember that you are truly a national treasure.
"On behalf of a grateful nation, I salute you," Mann added. "It is important to remember those who gave all so we can enjoy our many liberties."
He also mentioned his son-in-law, who was killed on Nov. 23, 2005, while serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. Fallen warriors, Mann said, "leave behind family, friends and loved ones" who must live daily with their loss.
Rachael Jackson, who is a West Point graduate and former Apache pilot, and now the wife of a service member and a mother, presented the ceremony's Salute to the Fallen.
"I have been so blessed with the opportunity to be a Soldier," Jackson said. "I have served alongside some of the most courageous, heroic people you'll ever know.
"I have lost friends, classmates and fellow pilots. I have seen my friends recovering in hospitals after being blown up by (improvised explosive devices)," she added. "I get choked up watching homecomings, knowing the sacrifice of spouses and children as well as the Soldiers. I have said 'thank you' and have been thanked. When I see the veteran's hat, shirt, or license plate, I say a prayer."
She said her heart often aches with the question, "Why?" And God has answered her, Jackson said, with these words, "It's the story, Rachael. It's the story of unspeakable evil that threatens to overcome. It's the story of heroes who sacrifice it all to offer others a chance at life and freedom. Free from horror and evil, full of hope and purpose. It's a reflection of my story."
Quoting John 15:12-13, Jackson said when the Scripture is reflected in a warrior's life, in a Soldier's life, it shows love for God, love for others and hope for a better tomorrow.
"Soldiers who selflessly serve their country are the greatest display of God's hope and glory," she said.
The Memorial Day ceremony was hosted by the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition and by the city of Huntsville.