By December 2011, nearly 4,500 American troops had lost their lives during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. We continue to lose American heroes every day in Afghanistan and in military accidents and missions around the world. The loss to their families, friends, communities, fellow service members and country is permanent. Some were only teenagers and most were under 25. In the eyes of their loved ones, they are forever young.
From the American Revolution to the gobal war on terrorism, 1 million men and women have made the supreme sacrifice. They died so we could continue to cherish the things they loved — God, country and family.
Remembering our fallen once a year on Memorial Day is really not enough. The widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children remember every day. The empty seat at the dinner table, the smaller gathering on Thanksgiving and the voice of a loved one heard only as a distant memory are constant reminders that they are gone. Because of their sacrifice many of us can still enjoy time with our families. “Greater love hath no man than a man lay down his life for his friends.”
When we gather each Memorial Day to honor the memory of our fallen warriors, we are also reminded that in each generation brave men and women will always step forward to take the oath of allegiance as members of America’s armed forces. They are willing to fight and if necessary to die, for the sake of freedom. The monuments on the Courthouse lawn honoring Bradley County’s war dead are solemn evidence to this.
I encourage you to join me at the annual Memorial Day Ceremony in front of our Courthouse at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 28. While it is a good time to rest, relax and spend time with family and friends, please take this time to think of and honor our fallen heroes. Also remember with respect, honor, gratitude and kindness those left behind.
We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the American service members who were wounded or died in battle. The price of freedom is high. We cannot afford to forget those willing to pay it. We can, however, thank the veterans still living today. We honor the living comrades of the fallen — the wounded, injured and ill members of our Armed Forces.
Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades, although there is nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating our American way of life. But Memorial Day is really about remembering those who made our way of life possible.
As in previous Memorial Day ceremonies, Taps will be played. Of all the military bugle calls, none is more easily recognized or apt to render emotion. Up to the Civil War, the traditional call at day’s end was a tune, borrowed from the French called Lights Out. In July 1862, a bloody Seven Days battle resulted in the loss of 600 men and wounding of Union General Daniel A. Butterfield. The general called the brigade bugler to his tent telling him he wished to honor his men. He thought “Lights Out” was too formal so bugler Oliver Norton took the notes penciled on the back of an envelope and played the notes several times as written. He then changed them somewhat by lengthening some and shortening others but maintaining the melody as given to him by Gen. Butterfield. Within months, Taps was used by both Union and Confederate forces. It was officially recognized by the U.S. Army in 1874, and is still used to signal the end of the day by the U.S. Military. It became a standard at military funerals in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate the air.
Taps is 150 years old this year. On May 19, 200 buglers played the military tune in unison from predetermined locations at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The purpose was to commemorate the tune’s 150th anniversary and its place in America’s military heritage. It will be played again on Memorial Day on the Courthouse Square. Please join us as we honor those who have paid the supreme sacrifice for our freedom.