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Remembering fallen heroes: Hundreds pay respects to nation’s fallen

Brig. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, CW5 Allen R. Godfrey, chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Thom, command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch, salute after laying a wreath during a Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Park May 23. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Brig. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, CW5 Allen R. Godfrey, chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Thom, command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch, salute after laying a wreath during a Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Park May 23. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 29, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 29, 2014) -- Since its inception in 1868, borne out of the Civil War, Memorial Day has served as a day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States, and Fort Rucker is no exception when it comes to showing honors.

People on the installation and surrounding communities came by the hundreds to pay respects to the nation’s fallen Soldiers at Veterans Park May 23.

“Today we honor our fallen comrades in the United States military in the form of remembrance, and with it comes a deep sense of appreciation for their selflessness in protecting the land of the free, and all they’ve done to ensure it stays that way,” said Col. Robert C. Doerer, the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence chief of staff during the ceremony. “It’s because of their resolve that we’re able to enjoy the lives we live today. The lives we’ve grown accustomed to here in America, living free from tyranny and fear.”

Originally dubbed Decoration Day by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, on May 30, 1868, according to www.usmemorialday.org, it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson recognized the day as Memorial Day officially.

For many the day was meant for a day to remember Soldiers, and for others it’s a day to remember the liberation that those Soldiers provided and continue to provide.

Lt. Col. Eric Merck, French liaison officer to USAACE and Fort Rucker, said that he and his country will never forget the contributions that the U.S. armed forces played in the liberation of France in World War II.

“I know in my flesh that France will never forget,” he said during the ceremony. “We, the French people, owe you our liberty and we will never forget. The image of the liberation of France by American G.I.’s is a part of our collective memory.”

Merck said that the French Republic is to bestow the Legion of Honor to all living World War II veterans who fought on French soil as a means of gratitude in playing their part in the liberation.

“It is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who perform remarkable deeds for France,” said the French liaison officer. “You wanted France to be free, and you fought to liberate France. Is there any higher deed than yours?

“You were so young, yet you were ready to sacrifice your young lives for our freedom,” he said about the veterans. “You wrote some of the most gallant pages of military history, some of you fought under the worst conditions for almost four years, and your courage was extraordinary, and for that we will never forget.”

Merck comes from a long line of military service members who fought in both World Wars, so he said that the sacrifices that Soldiers have made hits close to home for him.

“You gave your blood to France and to the French people,” he said. “Indeed, many of your veterans never saw France liberated and they will stay forever in Normandy – they will stay forever in our hearts.”

For the sacrifices that were made, Doerer said it’s a debt that will never be able to be fully repaid, but people can start by remembering.

“Each and every one of us owes a great debt to the courageous men and women who have given their lives to protect us,” said the USAACE chief of staff. “While giving back to the extent that they deserve is impossible, today, as we should every day, we merely attempt to repay in the form of remembrance.”

Charlie Stanhope, military veteran, is hoping to do just that for his brothers and sisters in arms.

“I’m proud to have served my country, and it makes me even prouder to be able to honor those that came before me and allowed me to have the choice to serve the country that I love so much,” he said. “I come from a time when the military wasn’t appreciated as much as it is now, so to see the overwhelming support that these people have for the Soldiers of today and those of the past is amazing — we’ve come a long way.”

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/126963/

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