EATON — Along with other communities across the country, Eaton residents and officials come together on Memorial Day each year to honor those servicemen and women who gave their lives protecting the nation’s freedom.
The traditional parade through downtown Eaton made its stop at the bridge over Seven Mile Creek for the annual wreath tossing ceremony, last year, and concluded at Mound Hill Cemetery, where American Legion Post 215 Service Officer Jake Dailey spoke of the importance of Memorial Day — and of taking care of our living veterans.
His words remain true as we prepare to celebrate this Memorial Day on Monday, May 29.
“America is rich with the spirit of sacrifice,” Dailey said. “It is a nation whose military members have bled and died on battlefields the world over. However, a majority of our citizens are exempt from the after-effects of combat. But that does not exclude them from bearing responsibility for caring — to be sure Americans in uniform defend the public at large. And when they are sent on missions in other countries, they carry it out in the name of our nation. While only a handful of our nation’s sons and daughters are fulfilling that responsibility, we are fortunate to live in this country and we must share the burden of helping America’s veterans readjust to life on the home front.
“It is our civic duty and it must be taken seriously,” he added.
“Memorial Day is a day of personal sorrow for those of us who have lost loved ones in uniform,” Dailey noted. “I don’t think it’s possible to truly grasp the depth of that loss. But it should be obvious to every American that this sacrifice deserves much more appreciation than we can possibly demonstrate on one day a year. Especially when we consider the degree of privilege and liberty purchased for us through horrific privation and death — endured and accepted by the men and women of our Armed Forces.”
“Was it worth it?” Dailey asked.
“This is a question, sometimes politically-loaded, that is often asked of family members of our fallen heroes,” he continued. “Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, recently offered a unique perspective. A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan himself, Gen. Kelly lost his youngest son, 1st Lieutenant Robert Kelly, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2010. Gen. Kelly was asked if the loss was worth it by a reporter with National Public Radio. He said, quote:
“’I think — what I tell families now — is the only person that really has a right to answer that question — was it worth it? — is that young man or woman who lost their lives. And I believe what they would say is that they were doing what they wanted to do. They were where they wanted to be. So that’s the answer, I think, to that question. It’s not for us to answer. I think it’s for those young people to answer. And I think they do answer it with their actions, and obviously their lives.’”
“Who can deny the heartfelt wisdom and logic of Gen. Kelly’s words?” Dailey continued. “But just as we should not presume to speak for the fallen, we can make the country for which they have died a better place — one that honors their sacrifice and epitomizes the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. In 2003, Army Pfc. Diego Rincon of Conyers, Georgia, wrote to his mother from Iraq: ‘whether I make it or not, it’s all part of the plan. It can’t be changed, only completed. Mother will be the last word, I say. Your face will be the last picture that goes through my eyes … I just hope that you’re proud of what I’m doing and have faith in my decisions.’ Pfc. Rincon died soon after writing this letter.”
Dailey continued: “We American’s should always be proud of the selfless service of Robert Kelly, Diego Rincon, and the more than one million men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice for the United States since our nation’s founding. Gen. Kelly is right. ‘Was it worth it?’ is the wrong question for us to answer. Instead, we must commit our nation and ourselves to ‘make it worth it.’ We must insist that America will remain the land of the free, and the land where patriotism trumps politics, where the American Flag is displayed proudly and frequently and where our military members and veterans are society’s true celebrities. We must never forget the families of our fallen. For Long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stopped exploding, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent. Spouses will be without their life partners. Parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early.
“We need to be there for them, as American citizens. We realize no one can replace these fallen heroes — especially in the eyes of their families — but we can offer shoulders to cry on, assistance with educational expenses and assurances that their loved one’s sacrifice will not be forgotten. We are here today to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Let us remember that tyrannical regimes have been toppled and genocides stopped, because Americans sacrificed life and limb. Let us remember that terrorist plots were foiled and killers brought to justice, because Americans were willing to pay a high price. It serves as a reminder that while some gave their all, we should more willingly give much to help keep our Nation worthy of their sacrifices. It has never been more vital that we — America’s citizens understand the importance of American values and keep alive the spirit of America’s fallen heroes.”
Parades and ceremonies are planned in communities across Preble County this weekend and on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.