In the aftermath of one of our nation’s bloodiest battles, President Abraham Lincoln described the ultimate sacrifice of all the soldiers who died at Gettysburg as the “last full measure of devotion” in his famous address.
Today, nearly 147 years later, the names of 64 Bulloch County residents who gave their “last full measure” will be intoned during Bulloch’s annual observance of Memorial Day. The 64 died in military service since World War I and each will be honored during an 11 a.m. ceremony inside the Emma Kelly Theater at the Averitt Center for the Arts in Statesboro. It is a small, but fitting tribute. Please attend if you can.
The 2010 Observance also marks a tragic milestone for Bulloch County. For the first time since the Vietnam War, a county resident was killed in action. A roadside bomb killed Sgt. Brock Chavers of Portal in July 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. His family will be recognized at the service.
Today we recognize and say thanks to the men and women who died in military service for our nation. Simply, we are grateful beyond words to all those who gave their lives while soldiers under our flag. Perhaps only surviving veterans and their families truly know the degree of their comrades’ sacrifice. The rest of us, nonetheless, can mark their deeds today with respect.
Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 when, under order by Gen. John A. Logan, flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It wasn’t until after World War I that most states began recognizing the special day. Celebrated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971.
Memorial Day always gains added significance when we are at war. Through Saturday, 4,400 American soldiers have died as a result of the current Iraq war. Also, the Pentagon said nearly 40,000 have been wounded. An additional 1,000 soldiers have lost their lives serving in Afghanistan, with more than 10,000 wounded.The determination, bravery and skill of our troops are a marvel to behold and we pray for the safety of every soldier overseas.
They make every American proud.
Sadly, more than 150 soldiers from Georgia have died since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.
In 1918, an American woman named Moina Michael was inspired by a poem about poppies growing in a French field where many soldiers had died in battle. She started a tradition of wearing poppies to honor the war dead that continues today. She also wrote a poem about soldiers killed in combat. Here is an excerpt:
“We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.”
Michael’s sister, Mae, worked at Georgia Southern for more than 20 years. Moina Michael’s words are an appropriate sentiment today, Memorial Day, for our soldiers who died for our nation.