By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 1, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Since the Revolutionary War, nearly 1.2 million service members have given their lives in service to the nation, and Fort Rucker honored those sacrifices during its Memorial Day ceremony May 26.
Held at Veterans Park, people came together at the ceremony to honor not only the Soldiers who paid the ultimate price in service, but also the families of those service members.
"When individuals set themselves apart to serve their country, when they rally behind a set of values and a most noble cause, when they are willing to sacrifice, they create a lasting legacy of service that our whole country recognizes and needs," said Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, during the ceremony. "As we reflect on the true meaning of this holiday weekend, we realize again the gift that has been given -- a proud legacy of service and the freedoms that it has wrought."
During the ceremony, Gayler, along with CW5 Joseph B. Roland, chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory M. Chambers, command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch, laid a wreath in honor of fallen service members and the legacy they left behind.
"When you look in the dictionary under legacy and it describes people, it describes a gift that people pass from one to another," said Gayler. "It takes people to lead others. It takes people to be mentors, to be an instructor, to pass on knowledge and to influence a young aircrew member somewhere along their journey. It takes people to instill values in others to leave that legacy that inspires future generations."
Last month marked the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I, and this year also marks the 75th anniversary of Army Aviation, said Gayler, adding that as those milestones pass, we are reminded that freedom comes at a price.
"Our focus today is as it always should be -- honor our nation, its incredible citizens and our freedoms," said the commanding general. "We're grateful today for all of our service members who have taken their place in the long line of service and sacrifice that stretches across our nation's history. We also want to take moments to honor the families today as we honor their loved ones who served."
During the ceremony, Gayler read a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to a Gold Star Family member who had lost five sons on the field of battle.
"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine, which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming, but I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save," Lincoln said in his letter. "I pray that our heavenly father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."
"This letter serves as a reminder that behind every Soldier is a family. It's because the support of the families that we are even allowed to do what we do," said Gayler. "No matter what era in our nation's history, when we lose a Soldier, we mourn their loss. It is personal to each and every one of us. To our families today, we say 'Thank you.' It's a very personal price that you have paid for our nation, and it has not gone unnoticed and they will never be forgotten."
For Seth Chamberlin, veteran, remembering the fallen is something that he feels is the duty of each citizen.
"The most important thing is that we never forget what was sacrificed in order for us to be able to live our daily lives without a care in the world," he said. "Soldiers often suffer and sacrifice so that the citizens of our nation get the chance to not have to think of the horrors of war or what price has to be paid for freedom.
"But we have to think about that price and we have to think about the lives that were given for that freedom, otherwise I feel like all of those who came before us gave their lives for nothing," he continued. "It's up to us to endure and remember all of those who made that sacrifice, and to never forget what they did for our country."