“We live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. We use words like honor, code, loyalty…. We use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. My existence saves lives. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t like to talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall!”
Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) — “A Few Good Men”
On Memorial Day, we honor those brave heroes who stood on the “Wall of Freedom” and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The first Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War era when a group of Southern women decorated graves of soldiers from both the Confederate and Union Armies who died in battle. The first national memorial observance was in May 1868. In 1873, New York was the first state to legalize the holiday and by 1890, all of the Northern states celebrated Memorial Day on May 30. In 1971, the observance date was changed to the last Monday in May.
In World War I, 116,516 troops died for our country and 405,399 gave their lives in World War II. The Korean War took 33,686 heroes and in Vietnam, 50,209 paid the ultimate price. The number of American troops who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan totals almost 7,000.
One of the more compelling tributes to our fallen troops is the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. In 1988, I made my first visit to “The Wall” and it was quite an emotional experience. Some visitors knelt in prayer, some left tokens of remembrance while others sketched the names of their loved ones onto a piece of paper.
The names on “The Wall” are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date, and within each date the names are alphabetized. There are three sets of fathers and sons honored and 31 sets of brothers. Almost 4,000 on the Memorial were just 22 or younger and 8,283 were only 19 years old. The largest age group taken were 18 years old and numbered 33,103. Twelve troops were only 17, 5 were only 16 and one soldier was only 15.
On their first day in Vietnam, 997 troops lost their lives while 1,448 were killed on their last day of service there.
For many, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. For others, it is a day for barbecues, picnics and parades. For all of us, it should be a day to honor those Americans who gave their lives for our country.
Honor our fallen heroes by enjoying the barbecues, parades and picnics. Honor them by embracing your family. Honor them by cherishing your freedom. They would have wanted it that way.
**The Annual Kirkwood Memorial Day Parade will begin at 11a.m. at the Carriage House Restaurant and end at the war memorial on Burnt Mill Road adjacent to the Kirkwood Fire Station. There will be a memorial ceremony at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments following. Special thanks to Terri and Vaughn Vandegrift for their help in organizing and sponsoring this unofficial start of summer in our community. Join us in honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
**On Saturday, May 30, our schools will hold a Color-A-Thon from 9 a.m. to 11a.m. at Connolly Park. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.) Money raised will support the Parent Faculty Associations of VMS, ET Hamilton, Osage and Kresson Schools to help fund student and school needs. For more information or to register online, visit www.schoolathon.org.
**The 11th Annual Wine and Food Tasting to benefit the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation will be held on Wednesday, June 3, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Lakeside Manor, 10 Foster Ave. in Gibbsboro. The event features over 250 of the most interesting fine wines, craft beers and spirits from around the world, accompanied by gourmet delicacies. Wine experts and winemakers are available to answer questions. Ticket donations are $50 per person in advance or $60 per person at the door. For reservations, call (856) 784–0615 or visit arvf.org. The foundation installs Teen Centers in hospitals throughout the country to bring hope, excitement and entertainment to teens facing difficult conditions while receiving hospital treatment.