By Mr. Patrick K Hodges (Fort Knox News)May 27, 2019
More than 500 Fort Knox and area residents attended the Memorial Day Ceremony at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central in Radcliff May 27, honoring those who lost their lives in service to our nation.
The ceremony, which was organized by Fort Knox and Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs officials, began with patriotic songs performed by the Ladies for Liberty, followed by remarks from the commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Maj. Gen. Frank Muth.
"Memorial Day is a day of national awareness and solemn reverence," said Muth. "In the military, we consider our greatest asset to be our people … and our common commitment to defense and love of our country binds us together and unifies us. That goes to the heart of what it means to be an American."
Muth also acknowledged that the 75th anniversary of D-Day is June 6. He explained that the cost of lives was high -- with more than 9,000 killed or wounded -- but their sacrifices enabled Allied troops to ultimately defeat Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.
"When Eisenhower gave the go ahead for Operation Overlord, he said that 'The eyes of the world are upon you, the hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.' And they still are in so many ways," said Muth. "And today our eyes are upon them as we remember the sacrifices of America's children, siblings, parents, grandparents and great grandparents."
The U.S. Army Human Resources Command Honor Guard Soldiers conducted a flag folding ceremony and a tribute to American prisoners of war and those missing in action. Soldiers from 19th Engineer Battalion fired a 21-cannon volley as a salute to the flag. Muth and USAREC Command Sgt. Maj. Tabitha Gavia ended the ceremony with a ceremonial wreath laying while a bugler from the 100th Army Band played taps.
Sgt. 1st Class Leilani Hartley, the HRC Honor Guard assistant noncommissioned officer in charge, said she was inspired to join the military by her mother, who was a drill sergeant. "I always get super emotional, either when I'm reading [the salute to the flag script] or we're walking away from the table [during the POW/MIA tribute]," said Hartley. "I try really hard not to get emotional [during the ceremony], but it's a very heart-touching event for me."
The meanings, symbolisms and takeaways of those who attended the ceremony were wide-spanning.
Gene Gudenkauf, retired Soldier and Fort Knox Gold Neighbor, said he likes to take in the crowd when attending this ceremony each year.
"What I enjoy about this is watching the kids," said Gudenkauf. "If I see them stand up and put their hand on their heart, you know they've been trained right."
Lela Williams, a Radcliff resident, said it's her family's strong tradition of military service that compelled her to attend the ceremony.
"This always just excites me, it brings a stillness, makes you think," Williams said. "And at my age, every patriotic word -- pride and country. It's special. It's very special.
Oliver Sullivan, a Korean and Vietnam War vet, who retired as a sergeant first class after 22 years of military service, has advice for young people.
"The military has been outstanding to me. I always tell young people to join the military," said Sullivan. "Step up and serve. You'll have the best experience of your life."
Williams also had a call to action for today's youth.
"Put the tech toys down for just a few minutes and appreciate what you have," Williams said. "We're in the greatest country in the world."