With Memorial Day on the horizon, it is a chance to reflect on the lives lost in defense of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by those across the United States.
Residents and veterans alike are invited to honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in a Memorial Day program Monday, May 29, at Olde City Park in Wylie. The American Legion Hale-Combest Post #315 partners with the city to host the event, which will have two parts.
Chuck Flesch, a Marine Corps veteran and American Legion member, said there will be a morning program beginning at 7:45 a.m. organized by the post’s finance officer Mitchell Swan. Flesch said he will oversee the 11:30 a.m. program where Mayor Matthew Porter will address those in attendance and a Blue Star will be presented.
Consistent with federal law, flags will be lowered to half-staff around 7:45 a.m. where they will remain throughout the morning, said Swan. During the later program, the old flag will be lowered and retired with a new flag hoisted, which Flesch said happens each year.
Once the new flag is raised, it will fly at full mast beginning at noon, which is stipulated under regulations for Memorial Day.
Three wreaths will be presented during the event as well. The first wreath — which is red — honors those currently serving. The second wreath is blue and honors veterans. The final wreath, which is white, is placed in remembrance of those killed in action.
Flesch said a specific focus will be placed on Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans because they willingly enlisted in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Both Swan and Flesch agree that the event is also a time to honor the ultimate sacrifice fallen soldiers made to uphold the freedoms enjoyed today.
“These people sacrifice themselves so we can have the freedoms we have today,” Flesch said. “Especially if you look at our greatest generation, they knew what it meant if they lost that war. I equate a lot of that to this year because a lot of kids were juniors and seniors in high school when 9/11 happened and they signed up.”
Swan added that a lot of freedoms enjoyed today are because of those willing volunteers who used violence to protect their country.
“Recognizing that our way of life, and very existence as a nation is due to the fact that we have men and women who are ready to do violence on our behalf,” Swan said. “Those are people who have signed up knowing the risks and possibilities and doing it anyway. We want people to acknowledge and understand that.”
Another reason for the focus on the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans has been because of similar attitudes between them and how the United States public responded to Vietnam War veterans.
“I really want them to come out because they kind of act like the Vietnam veterans did at first,” Flesch said. “It seems like the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans try to forget about it. One day, they will need us, and we want to be there for them.”
In addition to the mayoral address, Flesch said the program will have representation from the Wylie Fire-Rescue Pipes and Drums, a bugler, a rifle team and vocal performances of the national anthem and “God Bless America.”
When honoring Memorial Day, Swan said it is important to “never forget” the sacrifices made by soldiers who died in combat, adding that the holiday does not commemorate any happy events, rather a grim reality.
“We’re doing it for the brothers and sisters we’ve lost; we’re not doing it for us,” Swan said.
Memorial Day was initially known as Decoration Day and originated in the years following the American Civil War. The first Decoration Day was celebrated on May 30 because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. It became a federal holiday in 1971.
Every Memorial Day, there is a national moment of remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.
Speaking about the freedoms that are so ingrained, so they have been assumed as a given, Swan said that is made possible by the sacrifices of those who came before.
“We want people to be aware, to be cognizant of what has gone before and what has been fought for,” Swan said. “We don’t want them to take it for granted, but we want them to have the right to take it for granted.”
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