DENHAM SPRINGS — U.S. Marine Rickie Miller, who served in the Korean War, paused for a moment during a Memorial Day ceremony at Evergreen Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Denham Springs before tears rolled down his face as he talked about the heroic efforts of servicemen from all wars.
“Without question, the military harbors a unique breed of men and women whose dedication to a brother- or sister-in-arms is unrivaled and unquestioned,” Miller said to those gathered for the ceremony. “It is because of brave, selfless actions that missions are completed, battles are won, and comrades lives are spared.”
More than two dozen servicemen, their families and local residents gathered for the ceremony.
Tracey Jarreau, Miller’s granddaughter, came to Monday’s ceremony not only to see her grandfather talk about what Memorial Day means to him, but to “remember the guys whose lives have been taken from us.”
For Jarreau, the day was an emotional one, as she listened to veterans read a list of names of those who have died this year.
Jarreau said she wished more people would realize the true meaning of the holiday. The day, she said, means more than simply a day off for picnics and pool parties.
“People can party anytime,” she said.
“It is never over,” Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said. “Missions may end but the legacies left and the pain of their absence endure. Memorial Day reminds us of those who have fallen in the service of our country.
“We continue to lose American heroes every day,” Ricks said. “Not just on the battlefields and posts of Afghanistan, but in military training accidents and missions around the world.
“Although it is a wonderful thing that we set aside a day to remember and honor those who died serving our country, we should remember every day the widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children who never stop forgetting. Because of their sacrifice, we are able to spend holidays and enjoy time with our families.”
Many of the people gathered bowed their heads, and remembered those who have sacrificed for their freedom.
“We must remember those sacrifices those men and women made to keep us free,” Denham Springs police Capt. Steve Kisler said.
According to http://usmemorialday.org, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, the website states.
By 1890, it was recognized by all of the Northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war, the website states.
During the ceremony, members of the Veterans for Foreign Wars Denham Springs Memorial Post 7017 and the Veterans of the Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary Post 7017, placed flowers on an American flag-draped casket and placed a wreath nearby.
Those gathered also listened to the reading of “In Flanders Field,” a poem written during World War I by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian artillery officer and physician; “Amazing Grace,” played by bagpiper Bob Cargo; and taps by Margery Ann Crawford and Elizabeth Crawford-Drake.
As Miller told stories about heros from wars who died to save others, even one in which he witnessed during the Korean War, he emphasized the importance of Memorial Day.
“Americans, as we know, can be forgetful of the sacrifices,” he said. “Beyond the many citations for valor are the untold, undocumented stories of men and women who live with the scars of war. Many American sons and daughters are returning with amputations, disfigurements, physical illnesses due to environmental exposures, traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder, among other aliments. It is nearly impossible for these veterans and their families to forget the sacrifices they made, so why should we allow our own memories to lapse? They did, after all, stand up for every one of us here today.”