Service members and Civilians from throughout the installation honored fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on McGlachin parade field in a “2021 Tribute to the Fallen” event held in memory of Sergeant Audie Murphy’s birthday, June 25.
The remembrance event, hosted by the Sergeant Audie Murphy Award (SAMA) recipients and Fort Meade Chief’s Mess, also featured Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston as its guest speaker.
“It’s really important to honor the sacrifice and commitment of all those who have come before us to include Sergeant Audie Murphy,” said Grinston. “Finding time to be a part of these events really builds teamwork and that’s what Audie Murphy did. When he jumped on that tank and started shooting that 50-cal (50 caliber machine gun) he did that for his teammates. He did it to save the lives of his crew, and that’s what it means to be part of a team.”
According to Sgt. 1st Class Prince Yohannes, a SAMA recipient assigned to the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), with duties at U.S. Cyber Command, Audie Leon Murphy’s birthday was June 20 and the “2021 Tribute to the Fallen” was a fitting way to honor Murphy’s legacy.
“Audie never took pride in his awards for himself. Instead he always said give the awards to all of his fallen brothers who fought beside him,” said Yohannes. “During our tribute we plan to do the same with a special boot memorial and video tribute of fallen service members. We want to show our respect and understanding of the weight all service members have carried for us to pave the way.”
The practice of boot memorials began prior to the American Civil War and symbolize the passing of a service member and are widely seen at events memorializing the fallen. Today, boot memorials are usually symbolized by the Soldier’s inverted rifle either stuck in the ground or next to the Soldier’s boots, with a helmet on top, and dog tags placed on the rifle.
To express the weight all service members carry, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and government Civilians carried 20-pound sandbags around the parade field from 6:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in an event the organizers called “Weight of the Fallen”.
“Boot memorials and “Weight of the Fallen” are not specific to a federal recognized holiday. There doesn’t need to be a special holiday for us to pay tribute to the fallen, their Families, friends, comrades, shipmates, and battles,” said Yohannes. “This day is about showing we understand what they have done and that we still must carry their torch today. This is a day to show we understand our responsibility to the oath we gave as service members, and Civilians who work for the Department of Defense. This is an event that should make one self-reflect on their commitment to service and embrace their own servitude to their country.”
On military installations throughout the world, the duty day begin with reveille, when the American flag is raised, and ends with retreat, when the flag is lowered, marking the end of the duty day and a signal to pay respects. It was fitting the “2021 Tribute to the Fallen” started with reveille and ended with the playing of “Taps” followed by retreat.
Everyone who participated believed it was a fitting tribute to Audie Murphy’s wish to recognize those fallen brothers and sisters in arms, and to the weight carried by their Families and fellow service members.
“There’s nothing greater than the sacrifice that these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have given,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Jonnise Huff, Fort Meade Chief’s Mess, and a member of the flag detail. “I’m blessed to still be here today, but clearly they’re not. The least we can do is to show them our gratitude by being present in a ceremony like this. We still owe it to them to carry on their legacy.”