<b>FORT STEWART, Ga. </b>Aca,!" Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield joined the local community to remember and honor those who have died in service to our nation in Memorial Day observances, May 28-31.

Richmond Hill
Soldiers, veterans and civilians gathered at Richmond HillAca,!a,,cs J.F. Gregory Park for a Memorial Day Observance, May 28.

Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs our responsibility to see that their sacrifice is not forgotten,Aca,!A? said Ray Gaster, Vietnam Veterans of America. Aca,!A"We honor at this time those who died for our freedom; we salute you, Fallen Soldiers, and thank you for your sacrifice.Aca,!A?

The keynote speaker was Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general-rear. Other speakers included Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler and representatives from local veterans associations.

On the forefront of the minds of those at the Richmond Hill observance was the 426 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers who have died in the current conflict.

Aca,!A"We mourn the loss of these comrades,Aca,!A? said Bill Helms, American Legion Post 27. Aca,!A"We remember those who have fallen Aca,!" theyAca,!a,,cve give it all for freedom, and theyAca,!a,,cve given it for us.Aca,!A?

Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart currently hold 426 Eastern Redbuds, and five more will be added in June.

Aca,!A"At Warriors Walk we have 426 trees, each one marking the sacrifice of a Marne Soldier who gave his or her life in defense of our freedom,Aca,!A? said Brig. Gen. Phillips. Aca,!A"This (observance) is just another piece of symbolism of the great partnership we have with our community; celebrating together the gift given by these men and women for our freedom.Aca,!A?

Jonathan DeJesus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, reminisced about a time when our veterans werenAca,!a,,ct given the respect and thanks that they are today.

Aca,!A"It hasnAca,!a,,ct always been this way; our nation hasnAca,!a,,ct always been appreciative, or even nice, to our veterans,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"(For those Soldiers), there were no parades, no welcome home ceremonies, no yellow ribbons. Aca,!A"When you hear the words Aca,!Eoewe shall never forget,Aca,!a,,c stop and really thinking about them; those words have meaning, they arenAca,!a,,ct just a saying,Aca,!A? DeJesus continued. Aca,!A"We can never forget; we much never forget their sacrifice.Aca,!A?

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Candlelight Service at Emmet Park
For more than 30 years, Stan Standefer said he never talked about his service in Vietnam.

Aca,!A"When we came back in Aca,!a,,c69, the country made us ashamed,Aca,!A? said the retired Navy veteran who recently joined Chapter 671 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Aca,!A"I hid in a closet,Aca,!A? he continued, adding that his life changed a few years ago after he talked to veterans from Chapter 671 outside of Walmart during their annual Aca,!A"Forget-Me-Not Poppy" fundraiser.

Those conversations helped him deal with the shame and stigma of that war, and ceremonies, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Candlelight Service held in Emmet Park on May 30, have instilled pride in his service. He supported this yearAca,!a,,cs ceremony by giving out programs to community members.

Others who supported the memorial included guest speaker, Lt. Col. Jose Aguilar, Hunter Army Airfield garrison commander; Chaplain (Capt.) Terry Hill, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade who gave the invocation and benediction; and the 3rd CAB firing party, which provided a 21-gun salute.

Aca,!A"During the war, 2,709,918 men and women served in Vietnam,Aca,!A? said Lt. Col. Aguilar. Of those, 25 percent were draftees Aca,!" the rest volunteered."

As of Jan. 2004, almost 2,000 warriors were still unaccounted for in Vietnam, according to Lt. Col. Aguilar; five men killed were only 16 years old; 303,704 were wounded; 75,000 were severely disabled; and 23,214 were 100 percent disabled.
Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300 percent higher than World War II and 70 percent higher than Korea.

Aca,!A"It was a time of deep emotional pain for those who returned home,Aca,!A? Lt. Col. Aguilar said. Aca,!A"Unlike past parades, there were no victory parades for the Vietnam veterans.Aca,!A?

The memorial service honors the 106 Savannah-Chatham casualties with a roll; a wreath was also laid at the foot of the Vietnam Memorial by Chapter 671 members to honor those fallen.

Aca,!A"These memorials are therapeutic for us,Aca,!A? Standefer said. Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cm proud that these veterans are getting the recognition they deserve.Aca,!A?

In a military community like Hinesville, the true meaning of Memorial Day appears to be properly acknowledged.

Aca,!A"Freedom is never really free,Aca,!A? American Legion Post 168 member Guido Knapp said, May 31.

Knapp was master of ceremonies for the Memorial Day 2010 observance at the American Legion Fred L. Ginter Post 168 headquarters on Highway 84 in Hinesville.

Aca,!A"This day is set aside for those who made the highest sacrifice,Aca,!A? 3rd ID Deputy Commander-Rear Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips said. Phillips was the guest speaker for the event. He urged people not to confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day.

Aca,!A"A lot of people just forget (Memorial DayAca,!a,,cs meaning) sometimes,Aca,!A? Sgt. Richard McDonald said. McDonald, who drove Brig. Gen. Phillips and Command Sgt. Major Jeffrey Ashmen to post headquarters Monday, has served two deployments to Iraq. He said he was honored to be a part of the Memorial Day observance.

Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cd rather be working on a day like today,Aca,!A? the 28-year-old sergeant said. Aca,!A"To tell them [older veterans] thanks, too.Aca,!A?

Brigadier General Phillips said todayAca,!a,,cs warriors were bringing Aca,!A"law and orderAca,!A? to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as helping to rebuild those countries.

The Fort Stewart Senior Commander spoke of deceased Navy Seal Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, who threw himself onto a grenade to save his comrades. Monsoor died in Iraq in 2006 and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008.

The general also mentioned the late Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who wrote in a letter to his parents that he would either step off the plane on his own, or be carried off when he returned home from the war in Iraq.

Sergeant First Class Smith died in 2003 and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2005.

Brigadier General Phillips said the Army now does a better job of supporting the Families of fallen Soldiers by offering services to help surviving Family Members emotionally and financially.

Aca,!A"Our survivors are members of our Army Family; now and forever,Aca,!A? he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16