“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 our 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 was 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 Tuesday, May 28, the Voorhees Arts Center is conducting an Art Party for our community youth, ages 8 and up. Parents can drop off children to experience many different art activities including painting, sketching, photography and beading. The Art Party is at the Voorhees Art Center located in the Voorhees Town Center Mall behind the Food Court and continues from 5:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The cost is $10. For more information and to pre-register, contact Marianne at (609) 315-6218. These sessions are led by experienced art teachers. Thanks to Columbia Bank Foundation and Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission for aiding in funding this event.
** The first show in the Summer Concert Series is Thursday, June 20, and will feature Asbury Fever Band, recreating the popular Jersey shore sounds of the 70’s and 80’s. The band includes a three-piece horn section and covers such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Bon Jovi and Little Steven. Asbury Fever Band captures the intensity of these legendary Jersey artists. The free show is at Connolly Park and begins at 7:30 p.m. The “Beer Garden” and food trucks open at 6:30 p.m.