AL ASAD, Iraq -- Memorial Day may be known as a time when Americans have an opportunity to enjoy a day off and spend time with friends and family around the barbecue. But, the real meaning of the holiday was celebrated by service members here who took part in a ceremony to commemorate this day of remembrance: to honor all service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The service was highlighted by scripture readings, guest speakers and patriotic classics.
“Having a day set aside to remember our fallen comrades means a lot,” said Sgt. James Elrod, administration noncommissioned officer in charge with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2. “Having a service here with our fellow service members is a great experience. I think we all have more of an understanding of what this holiday means than the average guy on the street back home. A lot of us have lost brothers, friends and mentors because of war and a time to sit and reflect on their sacrifice is a good reminder of what is important.”
After the scripture readings, a herald from each military service spoke their thoughts of Memorial Day.
“We are here to remember the warriors who gave their lives for freedom,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew McDonald, one of the four guest speakers. “They all died trying to make the world a better place, not just for us, but for the freedom of people all over the globe.”
“Many soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice for what was right,” said Army Maj. Terry Jones, the adjudant with the 561st Command Service Group. “Each loss was felt by a family, a community and a nation. Losing a fellow soldier is the hardest thing to overcome, but it is important to remember they died for a great cause-- freedom.”
The end of the ceremony was marked by a medley of patriotic medley of music. Together the musicians sang and played songs that gave all attendees a moment to reflect on the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who died before them in the name of freedom.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed for the first time in 1868 by Gen. John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. That year flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial Day was officially recognized as a holiday in New York in 1873. After World War I, the southern states also joined in the holiday after it was changed from honoring those who died fighting in the Civil War, to those who died in any war, according to Lt. Margaret Siemer, the Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 chaplain.
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