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National Guard Honors Fallen in Memorial Day Observances

  • Published
  • By Eric Durr and Lt. Col. Keith Hickox,
  • New York and Pennsylvania National Guard

ARLINGTON, Va. - The National Guard is honoring service members who died for their country in Memorial Day observances across the country this weekend.

“When we remember what the fallen have given us, when we remember why they served, when we remember what they gave up so we could be free, merely saying ‘thank you’ has a thin and hollow ring. Instead, we must honor their lives and their memory, telling their stories and keeping their legacies alive,” Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, and Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony L. Whitehead wrote in a letter to Guard Soldiers, Airmen and their families.
The Massachusetts Air National Guard conducted a flyover in Boston Friday for a rededication of the Fallen Heroes Memorial.    

In Latham, New York, The New York National Guard’s headquarters staff marked Memorial Day Thursday with a ceremony outside the Division of Military and Naval Affairs building.

Maj. Gen. Michele Natali, the assistant adjutant General, Army, told listeners that Memorial Day originated in New York.

On May 5, 1866, as the Civil War was ending, a pharmacist in the Finger Lakes village of Waterloo, New York, led fellow citizens in commemorating local Soldiers killed in the war by decorating their graves with flowers.

Natali said New York contributed over half a million men to the U.S. Army and Navy during the Civil War, sustaining 52,993 military deaths — more than any other state.

“All of our current military and national traditions date back to a transformative event in our nation’s history,” Natali said.

Since the Civil War, the National Guard has served on battlefields around the world and at home assisting in natural disasters or civil crises.

In Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, Soldiers with the 28th Infantry Division and friends and family of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard continued a tradition of remembering the “Iron Division’s” fallen Soldiers during the division’s annual memorial service May 21 at the 28th Infantry Division National Shrine.

It was the 93rd such ceremony, which included a processional of unit colors and the laying of wreaths.

“Today, we honor the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division – The Keystone Division – and remember the over 4,000 men and women of the 28th whose names are engraved here,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, the adjutant general of Pennsylvania. “We also continue to honor those left behind, those whose sacrifice is so precious, so costly, it can never be repaid … our Gold Star families.”

Always held a week before Memorial Day, the ceremony features the 28th ID Band, equipment displays and an artillery gun salute.

In the West, Colorado Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly over Memorial Day observances in the state to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The 142nd Wing out of the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Oregon planned Memorial Day flyovers for ceremonies throughout northwest Oregon and southwest Washington.

“F-15 flyovers from the 142nd Wing and your hometown Air Force are a way for us to pay tribute to American patriots who paid the ultimate sacrifice and their families,“ said Col. Todd Hofford, 142nd Wing commander. “The flights are also a public salute to our local communities whom we appreciate and respect, for their support
of our Airmen and all those serving throughout our nation. It is an honor to protect and defend the Pacific Northwest and the freedoms which allow us to spend time with our loved ones on this national holiday.“

“But most of all,” concluded Hokanson and Whitehead in their note to Guard members, “we must continue to live and serve with honor, so we may be a nation worthy of their sacrifice.”