MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- While Memorial Day may be considered the gateway to the summer season, it is set aside to honor the men and women who died in the service of their country.
All around the nation May 29, American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and municipalities started their days not with backyard grilling and outdoor parties, but with services to honor the fallen.
The solemn trumpeter playing Taps, the rigid salutes of veterans and the crack of rifles firing in unison in 21-gun salutes at services were reminders of the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands.
A Memorial Day remembrance at the Twentynine Palms Memorial Cemetery May 29 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. Douglas M. Stone was the keynote speaker and proclaimed that freedom is never free. Americans are reminded of this truth every time they see a flag inserted into the holy ground next to a tombstone where a dead soldier’s silence sings the national anthem, he explained.
“On this day, we gather to remember and to thank those who are buried in these fields and in thousands of cemeteries like it throughout the world,” said Stone. “As stated in the Gettysburg address, within the earth are cradled the memories of remarkable servicemen and women who lost their life while in the act of defending our own. We know that without the sacrifice of those that we stand and remember today, we may well have lost our own freedom to fascism, communism or today to some radical jihad.”
Not far from people's minds are the men and women from the Combat Center who served the nation through the war on terrorism and gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“I would want them to know that their loss was not in vain,” said Stone. “We know by their example and that of the 92 Marines who have joined their ranks from the Combat Center as heroes in their hallowed formation, that all of us who enjoy our lives and the freedom of being American are an appreciative citizenry and eternally joined with them.”
In a Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., President George W. Bush read a letter written by an Army first lieutenant who was killed last September in Ramadi.
“He wrote: ‘Remember that my leaving was in the service of something that we loved, and be proud. The best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made.’”
To value their sacrifice of giving their last full measure of devotion, Stone thanked the fallen for their beliefs that freedom is worth the risk of protecting and the sacrifice which bearing arms against a committed enemy may command.
“It is in their service that strength is given to Americans to persevere and that no challenge to freedom will ever be met without resolve, without courage, honor or commitment,” said Stone. “This legacy of theirs has been handed down to us by them and by us to our children and to our grandchildren, not just in speeches but by example.”
In 1945, after Marines suffered more than 26,000 casualties on Iwo Jima, a Marine chiseled an epitaph on a rock which laid outside the temporary cemetery:
When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
“We will all say back to them, we do remember you, and today we thank you for all our tomorrows that your bravery has brought to us and to our future generations,” said Stone. “We will never forget their sacrifice we will always be thankful to them and to the families and friends they leave behind and to their comrades in arms sitting here today.”