Memorial Day reminds us of American sacrifice, resilience
Originally published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal on May 24, 2020
Washington, May 24, 2020
Memorial Day is rooted deep in American history and has spanned all of America’s major wars since the Civil War. Originally called “Decoration Day,” the holiday got its start after the Civil War as a day to mostly remember the lives of fallen Union soldiers.
At the time, the Civil War was the deadliest conflict in U.S. history. As a result, America built its first cemeteries. By the 1860s, Americans all over the country were visiting cemeteries, decorating the headstones of fallen soldiers with flowers.
As time progressed, the holiday became more inclusive, eventually honoring fallen soldiers from both sides of the Civil War. As time progressed, the holiday grew to include World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The day we now know as “Memorial Day” didn’t get that name until 1967. Four years later, Congress approved a measure to make it a federal holiday.
For me, each Memorial Day brings back memories of those I had the honor of serving with during my 24 years in the military. Mission-driven, my fellow soldiers and I were bonded together by a sense of purpose, to complete the task at hand and protect our great nation.
A decade ago this Memorial Day, I was fresh off of a combat deployment to Afghanistan. It was a somber time. I was remembering some of my fellow Green Berets who didn’t come back from their deployment.
We had just buried them several months earlier.
I think about them and miss them every day but my thoughts come back to them stronger than ever on Memorial Day.
This year, many of our brave soldiers who fought for America years ago are in a new war, fighting a battle against an invisible enemy. Coronavirus is more dangerous for the elderly, a population category in which many veterans fall.
These veterans know a thing or two about war and what it means to fight one – but sadly, not all of them have made it through this battle.
This Memorial Day, we remember brave Americans like Green Beret Sgt. Bennie Adkins, a Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran who prevented his unit from being destroyed by enemy fire when they were ambushed and outnumbered in South Vietnam in 1966.
During the 38 hour-long battle and 48 hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms and hand grenades, killing 135 to 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds.
Adkins lost his battle to coronavirus in April. He was 86.
We remember other soldiers like U.S. Army Pvt. Daniel Zane, who during World War II bolted through an open field in the midst of enemy fire to help a wounded soldier. He carried that soldier to safety, an act that earned him the Bronze Star.
Zane died of coronavirus complications earlier this month. He was 94.
This Memorial Day, we remember the legacy of these heroic soldiers, including the thousands of others who died in the line of duty. Their strength in times of trouble and trial have been critical to America’s success and in keeping our country free.
This is another time of tribulation for our nation – but as we’ve proven time and time again, America is resilient – and we will continue fighting for a brighter tomorrow.
Last month, 95 year-old World War II Navy veteran Bill Kelly gave us all hope when he made a remarkable full recovery from coronavirus.
“You generally get through it OK. I was very fortunate that I did,” Kelly said. “I got through.”
America will get through this, too, because America is resilient and we are strong.
This Memorial Day, I hope you’ll join me in remembering the sacrifices of those who gave everything to keep it that way.