Special Forces honors fallen on Memorial Day

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News Archive/2008/May/080526-01.html

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 26, 2008) – The U.S. Army Special Forces Command, together with the Special Forces Association, honored the memories of fallen comrades by holding the 40th Annual Special Forces Memorial Day Ceremony here today.

The ceremony was a time for members of the Special Forces Regiment to remember their fallen brethren, retired and active duty, past and present.

Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Csrnko, USASFC(A) commanding general, hosted the event, which was held on Meadows Field.

“I am honored to be with you today, on a day so rich,” Csrnko said. “With me, our nation’s flag flies at half-staff to express our profound gratitude for the acts of brave patriots, who gave the full measure, so that we might live free to place flowers on their graves and speak words of eulogy.”

It was those actions on which Memorial Day was original founded.

In 1867, a group of Confederate women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Miss., to decorate the graves of those sons and fathers who died serving the Confederacy. What the women also found in the cemetery were the unkempt and forgotten graves of many Union Soldiers. The women could not bring themselves to ignore the graves, so they carefully decorated them, until there was nothing which could distinguish them from the graves of the Confederate Soldiers.

A reporter from the New York Tribune witnessed the acts and soon the story spread across the country. It inspired Gen. John Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union’s veteran organization, to designate May 30, 1868 be a day to decorate the graves of fallen Soldiers. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was formally established in 1882 as a day of remembrance for those who have died in national service.

However, many Americans today do not fully understand the meaning of Memorial Day, Csrnko said.

“This is a sacred day for all war veterans,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Gary Betterton, national president of the Special Forces Association. “None of us have to be reminded why we celebrate this day. What about the general public, and more important, future generations? The day has simply become another day off from work. Perhaps another reminder is due.”
This reminder and the act of relaying the message of sacrifice is the duty of every veteran, Betterton said.

“Far too often the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy,” he said. “This is a national debt that can only repaid by honoring the nation’s dead.”

Without remembrance, future generations of Americans may not know their heritage and history.

“We would do well to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘Any nation who does not honor its heroes will not long endure,’” Csrnko said. “Well, we do remember. We remember that Soldiers serve, and some die, to preserve our bedrock freedoms. Among them are the freedom of association, of speech, participation in governance, the freedom of worship and the freedom to pursue happiness.”

Remembering the sacrifices of those lost in battle and speaking kind words of them are important, but Csrnko wonders if that is enough.

“In our hearts we know we can’t fully discharge our solemn obligation to these men and women with mere words or gestures,” he said. “They did not die for words or wreathes alone. They died so that in freedom, our nation might endure. It is therefore fitting this Memorial Day that we return our thoughts to the renewal of our own dedication to the cause of freedom. It is a personal matter for us to renew our commitment, our involvement in a freedom that our dead have purchased at such a dear price.”

More than 83 Special Forces Soldiers have lost their lives since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Many more have been injured, and thousands are continually serving in harm’s way every day.

“Right now as I speak to you, young heroes are risking their lives somewhere out there,” Csrnko said. “They do this for us. They do this for their country. They do this, because like millions before them, they accepted the defense of freedom in a very personal matter not to be left solely to others. They were stirred from within by a desire to make a difference, and in doing so they became the strength of our nation.”

Memorial Day is not only a day for remembering those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, but also for remembering those who endure the hardships of war far from home, he said.

“So let us pay tribute today to those heroes who gave their full and final measure,” he said. “Let us make a personal commitment to do two things before the arrival of summer. Visit the gravesites of our fallen Soldiers and give thanks. Also, let us reach over and shake the hand of a living hero, whether it is someone in uniform waiting in line at the grocery checkout, or a veteran standing on a parade route saluting Old Glory as she passes by. Tell them you understand the depths of their commitment. Tell them you honor their service. Tell them simply, thanks. In this way we will continually renew the spirit of involvement reflected in the kind and good acts of those southern ladies in 1867.”

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A color guard from the 7th SFG(A) posts the colors before the 40th Annual Special Forces Memorial Day Ceremony held on Memorial Plaza May 26. The event was co-hosted by the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) and the Special Forces Association. (Photo by Spc. Anthony Hawkins Jr., USASOC PAO)
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Families of Special Forces Soldiers and veterans gather around Bronze Bruce in Memorial Plaza during the 40th Annual Special Forces Memorial Day Ceremony held on Memorial Plaza May 26. The event, which was co-hosted by the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) and the Special Forces Association, was held in remembrance of fallen Special Forces Soldiers and veterans throughout the past year (Photo by Spc. Anthony Hawkins Jr., USASOC PAO)
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Retired Sgt. Maj. Gary Betterton, national president of the Special Forces Association, and Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Csrnko, USASFC(A) commanding general, place a wreath at the base of the Special Forces statue, Bronze Bruce. The wreath-laying was part of the 40th Annual Special Forces Memorial Day Ceremony held on Memorial Plaza May 26. The event, which was co-hosted by the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) and the Special Forces Association, was held in remembrance of fallen Special Forces Soldiers and veterans throughout the past year (Photo by Spc. Anthony Hawkins Jr., USASOC PAO)
 
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