FORT DEVENS, Mass. – Memorial Day is a time for our nation to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for our country and our freedoms.
As we gather here this morning we pause to reflect on the blessings on our nation and the high cost that was paid that we might enjoy those blessings, said Maj. Michael J. Griffith, chaplain, U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, Natick Soldier Systems Center.
Current and retired service members, Fort Devens’ staff members, family members and other guests attended to ceremony.
“We remember those that gave their last full measure and devotion so that we might live lives free from tyranny and oppression,” said Griffith. “We think of those that left hearth and home to travel into harm’s way that other nations might know the liberty that we all too frequently take for granted.”
During the service, the bright sun shined down on those gathered there and on the many small flags placed in front of the graves.
“Its fitting we should have this (ceremony) today in a cemetery,” said Lt. Col. Steven F. Egan, Fort Devens Garrison commander, United States Army, “for the purpose of Memorial Day is to recognize those that made the ultimate sacrifice, that have gone before us and made the ultimate price.”
“I want to speak briefly on sacrifice,” said Egan. “The men and women buried here have paid the ultimate price. They did so in many cases as volunteers, some were drafted, but they all fought for the men and women next to them, they fought for our freedoms, they fought for our nation. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Those in attendance stood still in silence. Also in attendance was guest speaker Ronald F. Smith, Veterans of Foreign Wars state commander.
“We gather today in honor of the brave heroes of our country who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Smith. “It’s because of their resolve that we are able to enjoy the lives we live today, the lives we’ve grown accustom to here in America living free from tyranny and fear. Today we honor our fallen comrades of the United States military in the form of remembrance and with it comes a deep sense of appreciation for the selflessness in protecting the land of the free and all they have done to ensure it stays that way.”
Smith has a long and decorated military history. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1963 and is a Vietnam veteran himself.
While in Vietnam, Smith earned the Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal with five Battle Stars, the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, Vietnam Civil Action Unit Citation, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
“As we go about our activities, we should take the opportunity to not only remember the sacrifice of our fallen and mourn their departure,” said Smith. “We should celebrate the spirit with which they served and reflect upon their contribution to making America truly the land of the free.”
Though Memorial Day is recognized once a year, its purpose can also serve as a reminder of the importance of honoring the freedoms we have each and every day of the year.
“They were our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends, when our nation called, they did not hesitate to answer,” said Smith. “Knowing they may not make it home to us safely they marched forth into the unfamiliar countries, immersed themselves into dangerous situations. They showed great acts of selflessness for all who were to benefit from their fight. They gave us everything they had to create better lives people all around the world, not just here at home, but for generations to come.”
“Today we recognize all that they accomplished. Their sacrifices, their spirit and the patriotism they encompassed,” said Smith.
The words recited throughout the service spoke of honor, pride, hope and respect, not only for those who are buried there but also for the many service members who still serve today, willing to put their own lives on the line and ready to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to allow is the continued freedom we as a nation have today.
“As we commemorate or brothers and sisters in arms that we have lost in our nation’s conflicts,” said Griffith, “may we honor their memories not only with our words during this ceremony but with our faithful service every day of our lives.”