EATON — “Memorial Day leaves few hearts unmoved in remembering those brave Americans who have given their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, in defense of freedom and democracy,” American Legion Post 215 Service Officer Jake Dailey said during the annual service held in Eaton on Monday, May 29.
Dailey, as in year’s past, was the featured speaker following the city’s traditional parade and ceremony. On Monday, he focused on the toll wars and armed conflicts have taken on the American people.
“This year is the 100th anniversary of the United States entry into World War I — ‘the war to end all wars’ as it was called,” he said. “But as we know there have been several wars and many armed conflicts in the 100 years. And in that time the toll of American men and women in uniform who have laid down their lives protecting our great nation is over 1 1/4 million souls.
“These are noble men and women who believed in their nation’s founding principles so deeply they were willing to die for them. On this day we honor that nobility.
“A mother’s pain. One of the most painful scars of war is inflicted not only on the veteran, but on the people who love that veteran. John Hunter Wickersham was a 28-year-old doughboy who understood the anguish that his mother felt.
“The final stanza of his poem, ‘The raindrops on your old tin hat,’ reads ‘and, fellows, she’s the hero of this great, big ugly war, And her prayer is on the wind across the flat, and don’t you reckon maybe it’s her tears, and not the rain, That’s keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?’
“The day after he wrote that poem, second Lt. Wiskersham was severely wounded in four places by a high explosive shell while he was serving with the Army’s 353rd Infantry Regiment near Limey, France. Before receiving aid for himself, he addressed the wounds of his orderly. Despite a severe loss of blood, Lieut. Wickersham then continued to advance upon the enemy and fired his revolver with his left hand due to the wounds on his right. Finally, on Sept. 12, 1918, John Hunter Wickersham, exhausted and bloodied, fell on the field of battle. For his gallantry, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor,” Dailey said.
“While Wickersham’s poem was about mothers it also describes the heartache of a wife, daughter or sister. It could just as easily describe the anguish of a father, son, brother or husband who have felt the loss of a loved one. Last month on April 8th Green Beret Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar of the 7th Special Forces Group was killed in combat and five children lost a father that day.
“Staff Sgt. De Alencar died protecting the freedom of not only his five children but you and me as well. He gave his life while fighting ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. And on April 27, two Army Rangers died in combat: 23-year-old Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas and 22-year-old Sgt. Joshua P. Rogers both of the 75th Ranger Regiment. They were killed in Afghanistan in a raid on an ISIS compound targeted for high level insurgent leaders.
“And May 5, U.S. Navy Senior Chief Kyle Milliken, was killed near Mogadishu, Somalia. For what they lacked in time they made up for in valor — selfless bravery is not gained with experience, but an innate quality that is instilled in their character. From these families is woven the strong fabric of our nation.
“In the trying hours of war and conflict America’s men and women answered her call,” Dailey said.
“Remembering is what Memorial Day is for — a time to cherish what unites us as one America — a time to recognize that the mortar holding our society together is mixed with the blood and tears of those who died in service to our great nation. And we need to be there for the families of our deceased and severely injured active duty personnel and veterans. To have compassion and to assure that their loved one’s sacrifice will not be forgotten. Empathize with the apprehension of those whose relatives are in military and VA hospitals and our nation’s cemeteries.
“We must also extend that compassion and empathy to the family members who are caring for their veterans in their homes, a 24/7 heartbreaking labor of loving care.
“There is nothing glorious about war, nothing noble,” Dailey said. “Combat is cruel and brutal, war tears the human body apart and destroys the mind.”
“As we mark Memorial Day remember the million and a quarter American lives claimed by warfare,” Dailey said “On top of that think about those who have been injured and permanently incapacitated. These are staggering and appalling numbers.
“Memorial Day has traditionally been America’s most solemn and patriotic day,” Dailey said. “On May 5, 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization of former Union soldiers and sailors) urged us to guard our veterans’ graves with sacred vigilance and to let no neglect, no ravages of time to testify to the present or future generations that we have forgot, as a people the cause of a free and undivided nation.
“Today as we honor the memory of America’s active-duty personnel and her veterans whose remains consecrate soil the world over let us resolve to renew our commitment to their sacrifices toward a greater peace, freedom and prosperity for all peoples of the world.”
“In closing I would encourage you to take some time to walk through this cemetery and visit the graves of our fallen military men and women,” Dailey said. “I assure you, there is no greater sense of gratitude than when you spend time personally reflecting on the sacrifices that our fallen sisters and brothers made for you and me.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.