MARINE CORPS BASE TWENTYNINE PALSM, Calif. -- Just as Labor Day is generally viewed as the end of summer, Memorial Day heralds the beginning.
Yet despite its present status, Memorial Day remains a noble day of recognition and solemn mourning in the hearts of modern patriots.
Communities throughout the nation observed Memorial Day with parades, 21-gun salutes, speeches and special programs, and Twentynine Palms was no different.
A Memorial Day remembrance at the Twentynine Palms Memorial Cemetery brought young and old veterans to commemorate and honor those who sacrificed their lives in order to give the nation security and liberty.
Combat Center commanding general Brig. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer was the ceremonial speaker and said too often the real essence of Memorial Day is forgotten. It is up to Americans to make sure the message of Memorial Day continues to be handed down from generation to generation.
“To many Americans the arrival of Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, family outings, picnics, the annual running of the Indianapolis 500, the end of the school year and main street parades,” said Zilmer to the attendee. “As a nation it is a solemn occasion to all of our citizens to pause and remember the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform to preserve security and blessings of freedom we enjoy. We often take for granted the basic freedoms we enjoy every day which are guaranteed for all Americans such as choosing what newspaper to read, deciding what religious service to attend, being free to follow whatever academic pursuit we desire, actively participating in our governmental process, living in and working where we choose and aspiring to the limits and dreams of our capabilities regardless of gender and race-- simple things which in reality have not been very simple to defend.”
More than 140 years ago, flowers were placed on graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery to memorialize the lives lost.
Twelve ladies who represent various organizations in Twentynine Palms placed wreaths in front of the flagpole during the ceremony including Lorie Zilmer, wife of Combat Center commanding general, who represented Gold Star Mothers.
“My volunteer group could not find a resident Gold Star Mother in our community, but we thought that was the most important league and it dawned on us that we do have a Gold Star Mother in a sense,” said retired Marine colonel, Phil Cisneros. “She is in fact an acting mother for 11,000 Marines and Sailors of the Combat Center, and as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom she truly is a Gold Star Mother.”
The price of freedom often comes at a steep cost and is marked throughout history with gravestones. Among the gravestones in a Gettysburg cemetery President Abraham Lincoln sought to reconcile the meaning and purpose behind the catastrophic loses suffered by the Union and Confederate Army.
“Despite the realization that the battle cost the country so many lives it would prove to be the turning point of the war,” asked Zilmer. “The question remained, what national imperative could justify a combined loss of 7,000 Americans--both northern and southern--killed in action in just three days? To what end and to what purpose could these horrific loses of life be justified as acceptable?”
One hundred forty-two years later thousands of American soldiers, airmen, Sailors and Marines stand ready to risk their lives to defend the nation and to preserve freedom.
“When you say your prayers take a moment to remember our brave guardians separated from their loved ones who allow us to rest in the comfort of their security,” said Zilmer. “Our honored dead shall not have died in vain.”
Zilmer closed his remarks with a quote from John Maxell Edmonds.
“When you go home, tell them of us and say: ‘For your tomorrow we gave our today.’”