By Lori EganMay 29, 2009
"The Soldier, above all other men, is required to perform the highest act of religious teaching - sacrifice," said Douglas MacArthur in a 1935 address to his fellow World War I veterans of the Rainbow Division.
Post Commanding General MG Michael Barbero, the keynote speaker for the Memorial Day observance at the Main Post Cemetery, quoted MacArthur when he said Memorial Day is a sacred day of remembrance of all who made the ultimate sacrifice - the highest act of religious teaching.
"All Soldiers who died for our country are forever connected as the precious few who sacrificed everything for their country and the cause of freedom," Barbero said. "We honor them today ... as their ranks continue to grow. Iraq and Afghanistan are still hostile places where our Soldiers risk their lives and die so others can live free."
Monday's ceremony was without rain, the second year in row, said MSG(R) Joseph Roy, who attended the observance without his friend, Medal of Honor recipient COL(R) Bob Nett, who died last October and is buried near the Unknown Soldier, where the wreath was placed.
COL(R) Ralph Puckett and SPC Jonathon Kaderli helped the commanding general and post CSM Earl Rice place the wreath in tribute to all veterans who died in defense of America's freedom.
"We pause to acknowledge the debt owed to those who gave their lives for our freedom," said Chaplain (LTC) Don German during the invocation.
SPC Ross McGinnis, who was posthumously promoted, was one of those Soldiers. McGinnis was still a teenager when he trained as an Infantryman on Sand Hill during the summer of 2005. He deployed to Iraq in August 2006 with 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He died Dec. 4, 2006, after he threw himself on a grenade that landed in an up-armored humvee, saving the lives of four Soldiers. McGinnis' parents accepted the Medal of Honor McGinnis was awarded posthumously from President George Bush during a White House ceremony in June 2008.
After their son's death, his parents wrote, "Ross did not become OUR hero by dying to save his fellow Soldiers from a grenade. He was a hero to us long before he died, because he was willing to risk his life to protect the ideals of freedom and justice that America represents."
McGinnis is an example of why Memorial Day is important, Barbero said. It's important to honor and celebrate the veterans who sacrificed for this nation, that the nobility of their service not go unnoticed.
Among those who attended the Memorial Day observance was LTC(R) Joe Bell. He brought a poppy for his father's grave.
"It's more appropriate, he was a Doughboy, he fought in World War I," Bell said. "This is a family cemetery, my parents and my son are buried here. We're near the fence, up high enough to see the setting sun in Alabama."