Memorial Day more than a long weekend
June 2, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. --Memorial Day has come and gone, and I am hoping that all of you have taken time to reflect on our fallen military members. That’s what Memorial Day is all about, even though it’s labeled as the unofficial beginning of summer.
Memorial Day is meant to be a time of remembrance and reflection, and many people turn the long weekend into a day at the beach, a barbecue and some early summer fun. And that’s fine, as we should all be grateful that those we are remembering served so faithfully and in many cases made the ultimate sacrifice. For those of us in uniform, or with a connection to those in uniform, the holiday has great significance.
The original idea behind the creation of this very special day was to designate a holiday so that we could remember and honor our patriotic dead.
Since the creation of our great republic, more than a million of our brothers and sisters have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can continue to live free from tyranny and oppression.
In paying tribute to our fallen comrades, we conducted our annual wreath-laying ceremony Monday on Fort Jackson. It pleases me to report that we had an excellent turnout. The ceremony " which featured the participation of the Gold Star Wives and the Society of Military Widows " was very moving. This year the wreath was laid at the Andrew Jackson statue near Gate 1, rather than at Post Headquarters as it has been in years past.
On this Memorial Day, we again found ourselves at war, nearly a decade after 9/11. The 10-year anniversary of the present conflict is fast approaching, and if we have learned something, it’s that we dare not let our guard down.
Despite having scored a monumental victory a few weeks earlier against terrorism with the termination of Osama bin Laden, we continue our fight worldwide to protect those freedoms that those who have gone before us have gained and also to ensure that our victories are meaningful and the world becomes a safer place. In any war, it takes courage, sacrifice and resilience to man the front lines of freedom, especially when a conflict is over an extended period of time.
As you know, there have been casualties, and, unfortunately, there will be more. In war, casualties are unavoidable. As military members we accept the fact that they will occur. But that does not mean that they do not affect us all, because they do. Any time there is a casualty, it affects me. It affects all leaders, as well as all Soldiers, spouses, children and families. The Fort Jackson family has its thoughts and its prayers focused on our deployed Army family members who are in harm’s way.
As American Soldiers, we have taken an oath to defend America against the many dangers that threaten our way of life. Those who have lost their lives had taken that oath as well, and we need to remember that they were doing what their country expected of them.
Despite the fact that our mission here on Fort Jackson is to provide young men and women the physical, academic and combat training to transform from civilian to Soldier " it is also our duty to make sure our new Soldiers understand the debt we owe the veterans who have paved the way for us through personal sacrifice.
And, we don’t have to wait for Memorial Day to roll around to remember our fallen comrades and fallen predecessors, who have successfully defended our country and our way of life. We also should not forget those veterans among us who continue to fight battles after returning from deployments, dealing with physical and emotional scars that could last their entire lives.
I am confident that all of you from time to time will remember in your hearts all of our brethren who have sacrificed on behalf of our great nation " it’s the very least that we can do.
Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!