Edgar J. Moorman wore a red, white and blue flag-like vest, sat in a wheelchair at the Dayton National Cemetery and held an American flag to honor all of his fellow soldiers who didn’t come home.
The 98-year-old World War II and Army veteran who fought in the South Pacific islands, was grateful for the hundreds who turned out at the Memorial Day ceremony Monday to remember fallen service members.
“It’s of great significance,” he said. “It’s good that they speak of the actual thing about honoring those that gave their lives instead of the cookouts that are going on. I’m just glad that I was able to reach age 98.”
Veterans, family members and others gathered Monday at the historic cemetery that will mark its 150th anniversary this year. A Civil War veteran was the first interred on the grounds on Sept. 11, 1867.
Five of Moorman’s 12 children joined him under a tent surrounded by more than 48,000 white gravestones, each with an American flag planted next to it.
“It’s the true meaning of Memorial Day,” said Patrick Moorman, 53, of Miamisburg and the youngest child of the WWII vet. “My dad appreciates representing his generation to those that aren’t around.”
On this Memorial Day, U.S. forces remain in years-long combat in Afghanistan and in the Middle East. The nation has lost more than a million in conflict since the Revolutionary War.
It’s important not only to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, Air Force Col. John D. McKaye said, but also to “remember those who bear sacrifices unseen.”
“Those who return to us and are scarred by what they’ve seen and endured in war,” he said.
Today’s missions challenge service members not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, said McKaye, commander of the 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
That includes making sure they have the tools to be successful on the battle and home fronts, he said, such as helping them develop the ability to make safer choices, build life skills, reduce self-defeating behaviors and improve resiliency.
“It’s up to us back home to ensure their sacrifices and the sacrifices of the ones they leave behind do not go unheeded or unheralded,” McKaye said at the ceremony.
An-all volunteer honor squad started two years ago to provide full military honors for the estimated 1,000 veterans buried every year at the cemetery, said Dennis J. Adkins, a Montgomery County judge active in setting up support activities on the historic grounds.
Until then, only about 10 percent of veteran burials received full honors, including a rifle salute. The squad started wearing Union Army soldier caps Monday and will continue to do so through Sept. 11 to mark the cemetery’s anniversary.
“They’re out here in all kinds of weather — rain, sleet, snow, 100 degree weather — they’re out here at every service, sometimes doing six, seven, eight services a day,” Adkins said.
Cemetery Director Douglas Ledbetter told the crowd it was time “to put memorial back in Memorial Day.”
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“We not only honor the sacrifice of our veterans, we think of the mother who hears the sound of her child’s 21-gun salute, we grieve for the husband or wife who receives a folded flag, we grieve for a young son or daughter who only knows mom or dad through a photograph,” he said. “And as we share their grief, we also honor those among us, true heroes who place nation above self and give their all for each of us.”
Therese A. Young, 81, of North Hampton, wore a white Gold Star wives cap in memory of her husband, Edward, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam and died at age 72 in 2008.
Young said her husband’s death was caused from cancer due to Agent Orange, a defoliant U.S. forces sprayed widely in Vietnam.
“His country was so important to him and when everybody else can recognize that, I think I’m happy with that,” she said.
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