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Memorial Day: Remembering our fellow servicemembers

  • Published
  • By Col. David Almand
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
This year, Memorial Day hits a little closer to home. While it's a day to reflect and remember the sacrifices borne by all those who've died while serving our nation in uniform, my thoughts are turned toward the recent losses we've suffered here and in the Air Mobility Command community.

As volunteers begin to place flags at the tombstones of our deceased veterans, they'll be placing them on the hallowed ground that now holds these Airmen in its arms: MC-12 crewmembers Capt. Brandon Cyr. Capt. Reid Nishizuka. Staff Sgt. Daniel Fannin. Staff Sgt. Richard Dickson. KC-135 crewmembers Capt. Mark Voss. Capt. Victoria Pinckney. Tech. Sgt. Herman Mackey III.

All were dedicated Airmen who died while doing their duty. We miss them and continue to pray for their families as they cope with their loss. One way we can honor them and keep their memories alive.  

Many of us will be attending picnics and barbecues--and there's nothing wrong with that--yet I do hope we can all set aside the time to have a moment of reflection and acknowledgement.

Many people may not know, but it was an Illinois native who championed the existence of Memorial Day. After serving in the Civil War as a leader with the Army of Ulysses S. Grant, Maj. Gen. John Logan devoted his civilian life in public service advocating for a strong Republic, initiating changes and benefits for the country's veterans, and leading the call for the creation of Memorial Day as a national public holiday.

He saw the bloody results from both the Mexican-American War and Civil War, and bonded with veterans through an organization called the Grand Army of the Republic, which was formed first for camaraderie and later for political power.

It was under the umbrella of this organization and while Logan served as its commander-in-chief that May 30th was designated "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land."

It would be a day set aside to preserve and strengthen those "kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who united to suppress the late rebellion. What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? ... We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided Republic."

Logan believed that it is the duty of survivors of war to honor the memory of their departed comrades. It was also his desire that all Americans unite to renew their pledge to aid and assist the widows and orphans of servicemembers, and I'm proud to say that Team Scott does our part. We recently finished up the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign drive, exceeding our goal by raising almost $120,000. That money goes to organizations that help Air Force people during an emergency, with educational needs, and to provide homes for widows or widowers of Air Force members in need of financial assistance.

Through the years, the country did observe Memorial Day, and in 1968 it became a federal holiday for the last Monday during May. There are no prescribed guidelines for observing and honoring our war dead, but it is customary to place flowers on the graves of these servicemembers and hold a brief, somber ceremony to recognize their service to the nation at the ultimate personal cost.

We can pause for just a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all, and to renew our efforts to assist the family members left behind, devastated by their loss. We can also renew our efforts to aid the disabled veterans. We should teach our children about those we've lost, and we should set the example in how we choose to observe this day.

I echo the same sentiments as Logan when he said, "If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us." Their legacy is ours to keep and it is a solemn trust. Let us always remember the brave and fallen. Never forget or take for granted the blood spilt for America.