After visiting his grandpa’s grave in Redding, California, and realizing that not every veteran in the cemetery had a flag, 11-year-old Preston Sharp decided to change that. He took on odd jobs and solicited donations to buy flags and flowers for every veteran in his grandpa’s cemetery and beyond.
We pause this day in America to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent or sweating in the desert, for the lonely days they spent fighting boredom and missing loved ones, for the hours they spent sick in pain from battle and without someone holding their hand other than their fellow soldiers, for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle, for the wounds suffered fighting evil, for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries, for the precious occasions missed at home with family and friends.
For all of these sacrifices, we need to thank them on behalf of millions of Americans who are so grateful. We truly appreciate their dedication to duty. A special thank you to all families and friends, to the parents who raised them, stood by them and made them honorable men and woman. We thank the wives, husbands, and loved ones who stood by them and supported them with their love.
May their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation. The new generations to come must be built on strength, duty, honor and country, willing and able to follow in their Warrior footsteps when duty calls to defend America. May their blood not have been shed in vain. May we prove worthy of their sacrifice.
You who have served and are serving as our brave ones, our heroes, are our national treasures. You are the pride of our nation, our strength and our foundation. Thanks to you, millions have been freed around the world. Those who criticize our country, burn our precious flag, and speak ill of you, are able to do so because their freedom is built upon your blood and your sacrifice.
Our son speaks from his resting place below our feet. He speaks to me each day from his hallowed space with beautiful skies and mountains majestic white with snow. God bless his soul and the others buried here and I thank him for his wonderful contribution to our life. He lives forever in our hearts. I fear no evil when I walk with Warriors. We walk in the valley of death but we fear no evil. We are the Masters of our Destiny and the Captain of our souls. You are the wind beneath my wings. I fly with you forever in eternity.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began as a tradition of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flags and flowers to show the respect of a grateful nation for their service and sacrifice. This tradition continues today, and our nation now sets aside the last Monday in May to celebrate the courage of the men and women who have worn America’s colors in war and in peace.
I remember as a young man remembering Memorial that in the morning there was a parade down Main Street, led by a color guard, the high school band, and ranks of veterans from World War I, World War II, and the war of the moment, Korea. The Veterans of Foreign Wars sold red poppies to raise funds for the disabled. Politicians made speeches and citizens prayed in public. It was a solemn annual event that taught us reverence for those who served and sacrificed for our country. It’s no longer so in many places in America, especially in our large urban areas.
Begun as a local observance in the aftermath of the Civil War, the first national commemoration took place on May 30, 1868, at the direction of General John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Though his “General Order No. 11” specified “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion” – meaning only Union soldiers – those who tended the burial sites at Arlington, VA, Gettysburg, PA and Vicksburg, MS, decided on their own to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate war dead.
For five decades the holiday remained essentially unchanged. But in 1919, as the bodies of young Americans were being returned to the U.S. from the battlefields of World War I, May 30th became a truly national event. It persisted as such until 1971, during Vietnam – the war America wanted to forget – when the Uniform Holiday Act passed by Congress went into effect, and turned Memorial Day into a “three-day weekend.” Since then, it’s become an occasion for appliance, mattress and auto sales, picnics, barbecues and auto races. Thankfully, there are some places besides Arlington National Cemetery like Bigfork, Montana where Memorial Day is still observed as a time to honor America’s war dead.
This Memorial Day we remember those who have served our nation in the past and those who currently serve America today. Although Memorial Day comes only once a year, we must make sure that our service members know how grateful we are every day. It recognizes the sacrifices made by our courageous men and women who have fallen in defense of our nation’s liberty. This Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember and honor America’s fallen and current day warriors who are advancing freedom’s cause today. WE salute you one and all. WE bow before you in respect and humility. May God bless you and God bless America, land of the free and home of the brave.
The entire staff at The Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund gives thanks to our fallen heroes and their families for their service to the United States of America and preserving and protecting our Constitution and our American way of life. On behalf of a grateful nation, The United States of America, may God bless you. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. Always.
Cadet Jessica Bates Receiving The Soldiers Memorial Fund Scholarship Award
The University of Montana ROTC Awards Ceremony March 29, 2017
More about Cadette Jessica Bates:
By Tegan Bauer
This past February one outstanding Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) member was selected to represent Carroll College at the George C. Marshall Leadership Seminar. Jessica Bates, a senior Business Administration major, traveled to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to partake in this unique opportunity.
“To know I will work for an organization who values the significance of building great qualities as a leader with character so much so that they implement programs like ROTC and offer other opportunities such as this leadership seminar, is absolutely priceless. These experiences will travel with me throughout my entire life, whether that be in my military or civilian career,” said Bates.
Bates was nominated from a pool of University of Montana and Carroll College’s ROTC Cadre. Applicants are evaluated on the basis of academic merit, physical fitness and leadership ability. Being selected to attend the Leadership Seminar is an honor.
The theme for the three day conference was ‘inspirational leadership’. Each day the representatives from all over the country listened to renowned speakers, learned about leadership techniques, and participated in team building activities. Bates stated that her favorite speaker was General Robert Abrams, commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command. She also recounted how much she loved bonding with her fellow ROTC members from all over the country.
“Having an opportunity to meet and better know some of my best peers across the nation; to establish relationships with those whom I’ll eventually get to serve with, since the Army is such a small world!” said Bates.
Bates enthusiastically emphasized how grateful she was for this opportunity and how much she learned from the experience.
“What I took away most from this experience is just how important it is to take care of the people underneath, beside and above you. The significance of making the work environment a healthy and productive one and being the kind of leader that your soldiers fully trust and want to emulate. It all comes down to humility,” said Bates.
SLHS Filmmaker Wins Two Top Honors at VHSL Film Festival
by Karen Goff
South Lakes High School senior Carlos Lenz won two top awards at last week’s second annual Virginia High School League (VHSL) Film Festival.
Lenz won Best Documentary chosen by the Grand Jury for his six-minute film, Papa Fred, which follows Lenz’s grandfather, Fred Gedrich, a runner who has completed hundreds of races, as he faces cancer treatment.
“What’s remarkable to me is he never lost his passion for running, or his spirit, despite being diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma/leukemia just a few months earlier,” Lenz narrates in the film.
Gedrich ran everyday for 32 years. Watch the short film (above) to see what happened when cancer broke his streak.
“It was like a combination of me looking for an idea and my grandfather recently being diagnosed with leukemia,” says Lenz. “He wanted to have his story kind of told. … It was an interesting task to undertake and very challenging. I believe everything worked out as a result.”
Lenz has acted in plays at SLHS, but says his real passion is film. He has taught himself the basics of filmmaking and has been making movies since he was young, he said. He will study film at George Mason University next year.
Lenz also won the top honor in the Best Commercial-Public Service Announcement chosen by the Grand Jury for Be the Difference, about suicide prevention.
Other winners from Fairfax County Public Schools included Shaun Saleih and Sam Sikora of Robinson Secondary School, Audience Choice Documentary for Ram Pride, and Shank Rai of Annandale High School, Audience Choice Commercial-Public Service Announcement for McDonald’s All Day Breakfast.
Editor’s Note: Carlos Lenz and his grandfather, Fred Gedrich are members of the Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund and Stand Up America family.
Vietnam veteran Roberto Gonzalez’s final wish was granted Saturday when he was reunited with his beloved horses — Ringo and Sugar — outside of a Texas VA hospital.
Gonzalez, of Premont, Texas, who was shot and paralyzed during the war, was wheeled outside the front doors of Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital in San Antonio where he was greeted by the horses he had raised for decades, mySA.com reported.
Gonzalez, who was one of the hospital’s first patients when it opened in 1974, had asked his family to see his horses one last time. The family passed along the request to hospital staff who gladly obliged. Ringo and Sugar then made the 150-mile trip to the hospital to see him.
“Horses are his life,” his wife, Rosario Gonzalez, told KABB. “We’ve been training and raising horses for 30, 40 years.”
The South Texas Veterans Health Care System posted a photo of the meeting on its Facebook page on Sunday, calling Gonzalez a great American and identifying him as one of the first patients at the hospital.
“A heartfelt Thank you, to all at Audie L. Murphy V A Hospital,” Rosario Gonzalez posted in response. “A special thank you to the spinal cord staff, all of you became a part of our family.
“The care you have been giving my husband and to me goes above and beyond,” she wrote. “You are our angels God Bless you all.”
Gonzalez reportedly learned that his kidneys and liver were failing when he recently visited the hospital for a back wound.
“He never let his injuries slow him down. He loved horses, he loved cattle, he loved ranching and farming. He was proud to serve his country,” Rosario Gonzalez told ABC affiliate KSAT.
Gonzalez’s May 21 visit with the horses came 46 years to the day after he was wounded in Vietnam. His wife told local media stations that her husband was one of the only licensed, handicapped horse trainers in Texas.
“When the horse came up to him he actually opened his eyes. They came up to him and I think they were actually kissing him,” Gonzalez told News4SA.com.
The Pentagon reported Friday that 265 active-duty service members killed themselves last year, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the U.S. military for at least seven years.