Remembering the fallen and honoring those who have served
May 30, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The words were sometimes difficult to find for retired Sgt. 1st Class Don Cook during his visit to the post cemetery on Memorial Day.
"... I have feelings when I come here ... I lost good friends."
As a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Cook came to remember friends lost in combat, and his perspective offered special poignancy for the more than 80 in attendance at the remembrance ceremony, May 25.
Accompanied by two other honored Purple Heart members, Ace Kaleohano and Moses Pakaki, Cook gently laid a flowered wreath at the base of the flagpole as the American symbol hung at half-mast.
"I will continue to come and pay honor to all veterans every year until I die," Cook said. "I hope after I pass, others will continue to remember the service and sacrifice from those who served in all wars."
Surrounded by both past and present members of the military ohana, Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI), called the day "a solemn celebration of freedom ... a commemoration of those who have fallen, and a celebration of those who have served."
"Americans are special because not only do they attach value to the importance of their beliefs ... they are prepared to sacrifice for those beliefs," Margotta said, underscoring a common thread between American generations.
"Americans sacrifice willingly ... not for wealth, dominion or reward ... but because it is right, and it is good," Margotta continued. "They have never been found wanting ... our armed forces are like none-other."
Representatives of Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Women Veterans of America organizations each paid respects as members placed lei under the flagpole and saluted in respect to service members, past, present, and in conflict.
Following the veterans organizations, USAG-HI garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Williamson presented a wreath honoring all fallen Soldiers.
Like Cook, Williamson also struggled to find the precise words to describe the day, and his thoughts turned to current times and challenges.
"(Memorial Day is a) reflection from where we came from, and the road ahead. War is still going on," he said.
For many on that day, unfound words were expressed in actions as a steady stream of visitors made the pilgrimage to the post cemetery to offer their respects, adding flowers and flags to grave sites already dotted with donated lei.
After a 21-gun salute, the flag was raised from half-mast position. The playing of Taps offered a final reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by more than 1.2 million American service members during conflict in our nation's history.