SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – This year, Memorial Day hit a little closer to home. While it was a day to reflect and remember the sacrifices borne by all those who’ve died while serving our nation in uniform, my thoughts were turned toward the recent losses we’ve suffered here and in the Air Mobility Command community.
As volunteers placed flags at the tombstones of our past deceased veterans, they also placed them on the hallowed ground that now holds the recent passing of Airmen in its arms: MC-12 Liberty crewmembers Capt. Brandon Cyr, Capt. Reid Nishizuka, Staff Sgts. Daniel Fannin and Richard Dickson, KC-135 Stratotanker crewmembers Capts. Mark Voss and Victoria Pinckney and 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. This is just one way we can honor them and keep their memories alive.
Many of us attended picnics and barbecues and there was nothing wrong with that; yet, I do hope time was set aside to for 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 to 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 that organization and the command of Logan, that May 30, was designated as Memorial Day. It stood, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or 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,” he said.
It was a day set aside to preserve and strengthen those “kind and fraternal feelings which had bounded the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who united in that campaign to suppress the late rebellion.
What can aid more to assure that result, than tenderly cherishing 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,” explained Logan.
He 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.
Through the years, our country only observed Memorial Day, but 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 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 have 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.