|IN HONOR OF – Maj. Gen. Mike Maloan, of Martin, a University of Tennessee at Martin alumnus, and his wife, Sharon, were among area veterans who attended the university’s 10th annual Memorial Day Commemoration. Sgt. Cole Turner Champion, of Huntingdon, a University of Tennessee at Martin student, was guest speaker for the event held Friday morning on the UT Martin campus. Local veteran, Hugh Gingras, of Martin, who retired from the U.S. Navy and later from the University of Tennessee at Martin, was among area veterans who attended the university’s commemoration program. |
The meaning of this special day differs from person to person, but regardless of these differences, we share a common goal: that our freedom is not free. Many men and women have died protecting the freedom we hold so dearly to our hearts.
It is a day of remembrance to all of those who have served our country and to maintain the achievement gained when our country was founded in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. The tradition of Memorial Day has decreased over the years. Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of this national holiday.
At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag technique for this meaningful day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country. Without a doubt this day is losing its true purpose.
With more ceremonies (like this one) the younger generations of our society can and will learn to give the respect and attention that this day needs.
Memorial Day is actually commemorated throughout our nation on Monday. People will lay wreaths on tombs, American flags and flowers will stand tall in front of countless graves from sea to shining sea to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country.
As a community, we gather to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. We as a nation also gather in the same manner in moments of war, when the somber notes of “Taps” echo through the trees and fresh grief lingers in the air.
Today is one of those moments, when we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, and other Americans are gathering throughout the weekend and on Monday, we all pause to remember, to mourn and to pray.
In all, 118 troops from the state have been killed while supporting both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom according to The Associated Press database of casualties.
Those lost men and at least one woman from all branches of the military, including many National Guard soldiers and reservists, must be remembered for the sacrifice they gave so we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we have. Some were veterans of other wars — Vietnam, Korea, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Overall 5,484 troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the AP’s count.
Memorial Day holds a special meaning to me, especially since I have done my part serving this great nation against the war on terrorism.
Since I have signed up with the Army, I have attended many Veteran’s Day programs and services that reflect upon what it takes to make this country a better place for all of its citizens.
I volunteered to join the Army on March 20, 2007, when I was 21 years old, not knowing that I would be sent to a foreign country some two years later. Many influential people and factors led me to making this very serious decision.
My great uncle fought in the Vietnam campaign, and I have so much respect for him doing so. I saw the kind of man he was throughout my high school years, and I thought that a big reason for this was his service in the United States Army.
I have another uncle who retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years of service, who also played a significant role in my decision to join the military. He is a respectable man who served in Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
I spent many long hours on the phone with him when I first had an interest in volunteering to join the United States military. And last, but not least, my grandfather was one of the most influential people in my life and supports me whole-heartedly.
Joining a branch of the Armed Forces helps a young adult to become more mature and a more thankful citizen.
Our country supports our military fully. I have seen this repeatedly while sitting in an airport waiting on my flights to arrive, and I always have a feeling of gratitude when I see so much support when in uniform.
When I deployed to Iraq in August of 2008, this was very apparent. The handshakes from men and hugs from women who supported the troops and put me in their prayers made me feel more comfortable about the journey I was about to partake.
Every person deployed to a combat zone will have a different experience. All of the troops who go overseas will miss their family and friends and the freedom they had. I felt this feeling throughout my whole deployment and upon returning home, I had a different perspective on these things.
When I first set foot on American soil after my time in Iraq, I knew I was home and that I had fought for this freedom so many have, and that so many seem to take for granted.
There is no better feeling than knowing what you did, and the time spent doing it was for your country and the people who reside there so that they may never have to be in your shoes.
Many troops have been deployed overseas and will be deployed to countries to fight the war on terror in the future.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who supports our troops and each of you who made an effort to attend this ceremony this morning.
There is no doubt in my mind that you all will continue to support our men and women who are doing everything they can by volunteering to make this country a safer place to live.
Your continued support will never be forgotten.
Editor’s note: This was a speech given Sgt. Cole Champion at the University of Tennessee at Martin during the 10th Annual Memorial Day Commemoration, on Friday, May 28.Champion is from Huntingdon.