Tuesday, 31 May 2016

It's not 'Happy Memorial Day,' VFW commander says

Maj. Joseph Berube no longer views Memorial Day as a happy occasion, he told nearly 300 people at a Memorial Day ceremony in Litchfield.

"Thirty years ago, I would have thought that 'Happy Memorial Day' was an appropriate greeting for this holiday, the unofficial start of summer and a day known for barbecue gatherings," the Litchfield VFW Post commander said.

He added, "However, today I feel differently about that 'Happy Memorial Day' expression. Today is a somber day for me, for my fellow veterans, and families and friends of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service to this great nation and defending what she stands for."

As a member of the National Guard, assigned to an engineering company attached to a battalion, Berube lost fellow soldiers while stationed in Iraq in 2006.

Berube, who was Monday's keynote speaker at Lake Ripley Cemetery, spoke of the "20 brothers and sisters," such as Sgt. Brent Koch, from the battalion who died during his 17-month deployment.

"Brent was the first soldier we had lost from our battalion, and the effects were hard on all of us as we realized the true dangers of our deployment," Berube said. "Sadly, Sgt. Koch's memorial service in Iraq was far from the last I would attend on our deployment."

Berube described what a memorial service is like in combat zone by reenacting a symbolic role call conducted for the deceased:


"Here first sergeant!"


"Here first sergeant!"

"Christopherson! ... David Christopherson! ... David Lynn Christopherson!"

Berube explained that after receiving no reply, the first sergeant bowed his head in a moment of silence before a bugler played taps.

Memorial Day provides an "opportunity for all of America to give thanks for all we are blessed with," he said.

"Sadly, the sacred meaning of this day is often overlooked by mainstream America," he added. "To many, Memorial Day represents a day away from work, the unofficial start of summer, or the opportunity for a business to hold a furniture or car sale."

Berube then turned his focus to those in attendance. "However, your being here today is a testament to the highest ideals of Memorial Day."

He called on the crowd to encourage others to rethink Memorial Day's meaning.

"We must rededicate ourselves to honoring the legacy of our nation's fallen by educating all who believe Memorial Day is just another holiday, and by passing our knowledge along to the next generation so that they must do the same," Berube said. "We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow understands the true cost of freedom. There is no greater way to honor the memory of those who have secured it."

Other presenters at Monday's Memorial Day ceremony included Everett Reilly, American Legion commander; Deanna Frazier of the American Legion; Litchfield Mayor Keith Johnson, who led the crowd in singing "God Bless America"; American Legion Post's high school oratorical winner Kylee Kohls; and 2015 Boys State participants Dylan Watt and Wyatt White.

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