By Ms. Alexandra Shea (IMCOM)June 4, 2019
Fort Jackson Soldiers and leadership teams partnered with local area volunteers and organizations to honor the nation's fallen on Memorial Day with a wreath laying ceremony at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery. Thousands of American flags and a single rose were laid alongside glistening white marble headstones in the cemetery.
"For our veterans, our day of memory is of someone we may have served with in combat or shared hardships with. For others, we remember a neighbor, a church member or even a friend of a friend," said Brig. Gen. Milford "Beags" Beagle, Jr., Army Training Center and Fort Jackson commander. " I thank you for your time, I thank you for showing that you care and I thank you for taking the time to remember."
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day until officially changed by federal law in 1967, is observed the last Monday each May and commemorates U.S. service members who have died while serving on active-duty.
With the nation's flag flying at half-mast on the terrace, Beagle along with Fort Jackson's Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah Gan and Soldier of the Year Sgt. Cedric Miller, laid a wreath adorned with red, white and blue roses at the base of the flag pole to remember those fallen lives.
In the distance, a 21-gun salute rang out above the chirping of birds. A lone bugler standing on a hill overlooking the ceremony played Taps. The bugler was followed by a Scottish bagpiper who dressed in full regimental gear and played a slow ballad.
Trainees from Fort Jackson were among the volunteers who helped to prepare for the ceremony. For all of them, this would be the first Memorial Day they celebrate as Soldiers.
"There are a lot more emotions," said trainee Pvt. Karley Murray, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. "I didn't appreciate it as much before because I had no connection, but now I'm really passionate about it."
Murray, along with her fellow trainees, assisted with setting up chairs and tables to host the ceremony's attendees. Additional local volunteers, alongside their trainee counterparts, began their morning around 5 a.m. to ensure more than 7,000 headstones were precisely decorated with a single U.S. flag and rose. Gazing down any row showed perfect symmetry with the next across all of the 500-acre cemetery.
As the benediction closed the ceremony, attendees walked among the stones. Some payed tribute to those they only know by name as they walked by, while others visited their Family members. One woman, Terry Knight, carried a small stool and a large purse overflowing with flowers. She silently sat on her stool and arranged the flowers in front of her husband's headstone.
"Many of them knew that from the time they took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, that preservation of life would take a back seat to defending and protecting all of us and our American way of life," Beagle said. "What many of them did not know, is that on days like today, the respect for their lives would be upheld and maintained by all of you that are here today."