Monday, May 26, 2014



Marine veteran, retired Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes riders in the annual Rolling Thunder 'Ride for Freedom' motorcycle rally in Washington, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Marine Corps' chaplain, speaking to a congregation that has tied gold ribbons on the church's fence in honor of fallen soldiers since the Iraq War began, lauded the sacrifice of veterans around the world as President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan for Memorial Day.

"What they have done has allowed us to be here," Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben told the roughly 200 worshippers Sunday at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, including active duty servicemen and women in town for the annual Fleet Week celebration.
Memorial Day, she said, was a time to remind ourselves of the meaning of sacrifice and to put personal struggles and difficulties in perspective.
Across the nation, citizens were marking Memorial Day with somber ceremonies, flag planting at cemeteries, parades and even barbecues — an American pastime that Petty Officer 1st Class Brian McNeal said should be enjoyed this weekend.
"I'm in the service so that they can enjoy that," said McNeal, 39, who is stationed in Suffolk, Virginia, and is in town for Fleet Week. "They made the sacrifice so everyday citizens don't have to worry about the evils of the world."
Thousands of memorial ribbons are tied on the storied church's fence. There are gold ribbons for service members killed in Afghanistan, green ribbons representing prayers for peace and blue ribbons for the people of Afghanistan.
Obama arrived at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to speak with troops and visit soldiers being treated at a base hospital. At least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.
Obama has directed all government agencies in the United States to fly their flags at half-staff on Monday in observance of Memorial Day.
On Saturday, Democratic congresswoman Tammy Duckworth served as grand marshal of Chicago's Memorial Day Parade and struggled to hold back tears during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor fallen soldiers. She lost her legs and partial use of an arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting in Iraq in 2004.

More than 300 Junior ROTC students from Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville marched in the city's parade. Afterward, still dressed in their uniforms, they chatted, bantered and ordered ice cream from a vendor's truck while waiting for a bus that would take them back home.
Their instructor, 1st Sgt. Stephen Roberts, an Army veteran, said the students practice all year to march in the parade.
"They enjoy it a lot," Roberts said. "We tell them about it at the beginning of the year. Our rifle, our drum teams, our flags, they practice every day. They come in on their own accord. They do their own practices. It means a lot to them. They're very proud to do this."
In Massachusetts, Boston Marathon survivor Jeff Bauman and his rescuer, Carlos Arredondo, helped plant tens of thousands of flags Saturday at a cemetery to honor soldiers.

For most of us, Memorial Day means the “unofficial kickoff” of summer when we go away or get together with loved ones to grill up some great food.

Not at all suggesting that there is anything wrong with this, but I challenge you to pause and think about what it means when a soldier dies fighting for your freedom. Think about the scene playing out in slow motion as the loved one of a fallen soldier hears that knock on the door.

Will you pause for a moment and remember the fallen brave as that familiar bugle sound plays in the background…”Taps”.

Here is a bit of history of Taps.

Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to render emotion that Taps. Up to the Civil War, the traditional call at day’s end was a tune borrowed from the French called Lights Out. In July of 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days Battles, hard on the loss of 600 men and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought Lights Out was too formal and he wished to honor his men.

Oliver Wilcox Norton, the bugler, tells the story, “…showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, [he] asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring Brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished. the call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac.”

This more emotive and powerful Taps was soon adopted throughout the military. In 1874 it was officially recognized by the U.S. Army. It became mandatory at military funeral ceremonies in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. It echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.i

While there are no official lyrics for Taps, the following unofficial verse is often used:

Fading light dims the sight

And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,

Friend, goodnight.

I’m still going enjoy this day with my family. But, before I do I will honor the fallen who fought for this country! Mourn for the fallen but also celebrate the spirit of those who gave everything to preserve our way of life. I am grateful for their sacrifice and grateful for our freedom.

Will you join me in remembering the fallen?

  • By Patrick Morley
Today we fly our flags to remember all of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our country during active military service. We are filled with pride for these soldiers who protected us. And we are filled with humility as we ponder what they sacrificed so that you and I wouldn’t have to. The gave up watching their families grow up, ice cream cones on a hot summer day, the tributes and picnics that will take place today. Let us also offer a prayer for the loved ones they left behind. And also for our soldiers still in harm’s way, and the thousands of veterans trying to reenter civilian life.

Preparing for Memorial Day in East Tennessee Those flags don't get there by themselves

Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike

I have driven by the Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike and seen the miniature U.S. flags placed in front of each headstone at least a hundred times over the last dozen years.  Not one time have I ever thought about who places those flags.

Since my son has been active duty for the last four years, I have become more and more involved with not just the Blue Star Mothers of America but veterans and those who support them.  I went to a Memorial Day event at the Harley Davidson store on Tuesday and some of the Gold Star Families and members of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. were talking about placing the flags at the graves in our two veterans cemeteries here in the Knoxville area.

They were going to start at 8:30 a.m.  I am not a morning person.  I have started saying to myself, "If my son can stand the privations of deployment, I can...".  So, I arrived at the Lyons View Pike cemetery pretty close to 8:30 a.m.  The man in charge was instructing the gathered throng on the appropriate way to set the flag.

The flag should be placed solidly in the ground 8-10" from the headstone and centered on the headstone.  He asked the crowd to read aloud the name of the veteran buried there.  He asked all of those in uniform, including the boy and girl scouts to salute the veteran before moving to the next grave.

Honoring the Fallen
My friend Bernie photographing a Cub Scout and his Dad
My friend Bernie and her husband Bill and a few other Gold Star Families remarked on how many people were out for the flag setting this year.

A few of the volunteers in a small section of the cemetery
I learned about a tradition of placing coins on the headstones.  One places a penny on the headstone to indicate that someone has visited the grave.  A nickel is placed on the grave is you were in bootcamp with the deceased.  A dime is placed if you were deployed with the deceased.  Finally, a quarter is placed on the headstone if you were with the deceased when he/she was killed.

This is me, placing pennies.  Photo by Bernie Wickman Koprince
The cemetery workers gather the coins and the funds are used for cemetery upkeep and for indigent veterans'  funerals.

It was a perfect blue sky day and there were so many who showed up to do the work that it went very quickly.  Quite a few of us headed to Krispy Kreme for donuts once all the flags were set.  After I left Krispy Kreme, I was thinking about the photos.  When you are at the Veterans Cemetery, it is difficult to get a good photo of it.

So, I drove back to the property across the street from the cemetery and took some photos.  They don't show the whole thing.  It is too big.  But, I think these photos give a better idea of the cemetery with the flags placed.  It is so beautiful.  I am so honored.