UNION — Those “who lost their lives in war that we might live in peace” were remembered Monday morning during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Main Street War Memorial in downtown Union.
Monday’s ceremony was sponsored by American Legion Post 22 which, in a press release announcing the event, stated that its purpose was to “honor all the members of our military who lost their lives in war that we might live in peace.”
During the ceremony, members of American Legion Post 22 placed a wreath at the memorial which lists the names of those Union County residents who were killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The small crowd that attended the ceremony included veterans of military service as well as family members of those whose names are listed on the war memorial.
Main Street was lined with American flags and the area of the street nearest the war memorial was blocked off for the duration of the ceremony.
The main part of Monday’s ceremony was an address by American Legion Post 22 Commander Tommy Sinclair.
“We are here to help celebrate Memorial Day and I am the speaker,” Sinclair said. “I am not a good speaker and when I think of the soldiers that have given their life in service and defense of this country I certainly feel inadequate.
“When I put it on a personal note and remember Crystal Stout from Travelers Rest and Steven High from Spartanburg, both citizen soldiers and members of my brigade here in the Upstate of South Carolina that went down together on a Chinook in Afghanistan, I certainly wonder if I can make appropriate remarks,” he said. “I ask you now to kind of personalize today as you look to the wall and find a name you know, I know many of them.”
Sinclair described Memorial Day as “a day to pause and be solemn as we remember the over one million who have died protecting and preserving our freedom and our way of life and we do that now.”
The other meanings of Memorial Day were also discussed by Sinclair.
“Right now it is a period of celebration for the state championship softball team, and a period of anticipation for many as school is out and the beach and vacation calls us,” Sinclair said. “For others it is store sales and BBQ. Among other things for me Memorial Day marks a time of happy spring and summer renewal. I spent part of the weekend in my garden. Just like many of you thought of my first tomatoes rather than so much of Crystal, Steven, or the other million or so that have made the ultimate sacrifice of life.
“I have a feeling though, as I knew Roy Bratton, Wallace Mcmakin, Troy Puckett, Larry Lawson, and others on this wall, as I recall another Upstate soldier, David Lindsey’s paying tribute to his father in a letter home before he made the sacrifice and says ‘I’m out here on the front lines so y’all can sleep in peace tonight,’ they would be satisfied and have a look of success and contentment to know we won the ball game, we have vacation, children are able to kick up their heels when school was out, that I can work my garden, and we were all able to go our church of choice yesterday,” he said. “Yes, I have a feeling they are content as they know they helped preserve and protect the American way of life, a way of life well worth protecting.”
Sinclair recalled how, in his youth, he often passed the monuments with the names of those who gave their lives for their country, never thinking that one day they would bear the names of members of his own generation, some of them personal friends.
“Even as those names looked down over me then and do today, how really unaware I was that the very people that allowed me to carelessly and safely walk to school and church were the heroes on that wall who had answered the call to defend our freedoms and protect our way of life with a full measure,” Sinclair said. “But I suspect even then as Crystal, Steven, and David do now, the people behind those names look down with a large degree of satisfaction and a smile that they did not die in vain because I and others now can pass safely.”
Sinclair also pointed out that in honoring those who have given their lives in service to their country and the families they left behind, America is ensuring that future generations will be willing to step up and place their lives on the line in defense of their country.
“George Washington once stated that the willingness for soldiers to fight in future battles to protect this country was much more dependent on how veterans were treated than on the justification of the future war itself,” Sinclair said. “Certainly by this ceremony today and others like it throughout the nation we respond to Washington’s caution.
“Shakespeare in ‘Henry V’ spoke of a band of brothers, to paraphrase he said we have a common bond because we spilled blood together and we will forever be a band of brothers,” he said. “I wonder what the million or so band of brothers ranging from those that secured our freedom over 200 years ago to the ones today who made the ultimate sacrifice think about the hardship we face today as we fight and struggle with the continuing War on Terrorism. As they continue to look down from the monuments across this great land, I suspect they understand more than most the need to stay the course, to protect our way of life, and to ensure they did not sacrifice in vain.”
Sinclair pointed out that the soldiers fighting the current Global War on Terrorism, among them local members of the National Guard, are as steadfast in their commitment to the defense of their country as their counterparts in previous generations. He said this kind of commitment is vital to the cause of freedom.
“The real reason for this commemoration today in front of these monuments to our fallen band of brothers, and others like it throughout this nation, is to pause in remembrance of those who sacrificed so much,” Sinclair said. “It has been said that it is an accident to be born free, it is a privilege to live free, and it is a responsibility to die free. The names on the monuments reflect those that lived up to the responsibility to die free so the rest of us could enjoy the privilege to live free.”
Sinclair pointed out that this commitment to the defense America and the freedom its people enjoy continues to this day.
“As I look at the audience today, I see many generations of warriors and their families here and realize how fortunate we are to come together by what we all have in common; that is the civic loyalty to protect our citizens, our community, and our country,” Sinclair said. “Whether on an international or local level, whether a veteran of wars past, present or future, we are united by our moral obligation to protect American values and our way of life.”
Sinclair said that Americans are fortunate to live in an era when the sacrifices of America’s military are recognized as recommended by Washington. He urged those present to take some specific steps to recognize the sacrifices of America’s military personnel.
“I ask that on this significant day, the day we remember those that gave the full measure we take a moment to do three other things,” Sinclair said. “First thank all veterans; second we specifically remember those deployed today and pray for their safe return; and finally, let us pause to remember our fallen comrades and the sacrifices they made to protect us, our community, and our country.”
“As their names are etched in stone on memorials here or in our nation’s capital, or roughly carved in a wooden cross draped with their dog-tags; their memories are etched forever in our hearts and minds,” he said. “We honor them best by dedicating ourselves to continue the task at hand.”
Sinclair said that “as they look down from the monuments” the veterans who fell in service to their country “make me feel safe and confident that the benchmark set by the band of brothers that declared and secured our freedom at this time of year 200 plus years ago, and those that have met and even exceeded that benchmark in the tests of patriotism that have followed will be carried on. We are blessed with our independence and our freedom, and our veterans who secured those blessings, some even with their life. Above all we have a community of citizens and soldiers that will always sacrifice to answer that call to protect our way of life.”
The sacrifices of the band of brothers over the past two centuries was described by Sinclair said as an investment in American freedom.
“I sometimes think of veterans as veterans past, veterans present, and veterans future, but more often I think of them as a long standing band of brothers with the common thread of securing and maintaining the freedom and the values we all hold do dear,” Sinclair said. “There are over a hundred names here, and if one assumes they died at average age of 25 and would have lived to average age of 75 then one might say there is a 5,000-year loss here. I choose to say there is a not a loss but 5,000-year investment from this community alone to insure our free future.
“Please let us not break that common thread, let us not have the names on these monuments be in vain, let them continue to look down on the way of life they gave their life for with a look of satisfaction, success, and contentment and not a frown of failure and discontent,” he said. “God bless you, this community, and this nation.”