Memorial Day ceremony in 2012 at Gypsy Hill Park presented with the help of many people: VFW Post 7814 & Auxiliary, American Legion Post 13, VFW Post 2216 & Auxiliary, and VFW Post 10826 & Auxiliary.
Also Reverend Ben Sprouse, US Army Chaplain; Stonewall Brigade Band, Kris Neil, Teresa Whitesell, Sierra Losh, Julie Turner and keynote speaker Army Col. Melissa Patrick.
Retired Army Colonel Melissa Patrick (MBC Class of 1978), a decorated veteran who has received numerous awards including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, was the keynote speaker.
Col Patrick is second in command of Mary Baldwin College (MBC) Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL). His remarks were a memory of the fallen heroes of the Staunton area.
After the program, I asked if she wanted to share her remarks and she graciously agreed. They are below.
The Flower Wreath Presentation in Honor of Fallen Heroes was made by: Gold Star Moms, VGW Post 2216 & Auxiliary, VFW Post 7814 & Auxiliary, VFW Post 10826 & Auxiliary, Beverley Manor Chapter of NSDAR, Colonel Thomas Hugart Chapter of NSDAR, Augusta Parrish Chapter of NSDAR, Shenandoah Society Children of the American Revolution, American Legion Post 13 & Auxiliary, and Sons of the American Revolution Gen. Daniel Morgan Chapter.
Councilor Staunton Bruce Elder and Colonel Patrick
Councilor Elder attends the Gypsy Hill Memorial each year. His family includes many military personnel who have served over the years. [Update: Bruce passed away this year leaving a hole in Staunton.]
They served and returned home, and today they have helped keep the memory of those who did not return home alive.
Memorial Day 2012… that we will never forget.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Originally posted May 28, 2012
Opening remarks by Colonel Melissa Patrick (retired)….
“Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am honored to have to address you and to be in the presence of our veterans, their families and the caring people of this great community. Thank you for being here today to join in this celebration of remembrance for those who gave their lives in the service of this great nation of ours.
“Memorial Day is a truly special day as we remember and honor the sacrifice of the 1,343,000 servicemen who gave their lives in service to protect our freedom and preserve it from all threats.
“Think about it: 1,343,000 war dead in the service of America; fight and die on our behalf; from the eight militiamen killed at Lexington on April 19, 1775 to the last two reported casualties in our eleven year war in Afghanistan, which represent the present sacrifice and loss.
“Just a statistic, a very large number; one that is difficult to fully understand. Yet he represents real flesh and blood, some of the best this nation has to offer.
“Think of the two young men who gave their lives in Afghanistan at the end of last week. On Thursday, PFC Cale C. Miller, 23, from Olathe, Kansas, assigned to 4-23 Infantry, 2d Stryker Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, was killed in Kandahar. He had enlisted about a year ago because “He wanted to do something bigger than himself” and “He wanted to feel good about what he was doing.”
“He deployed to Afghanistan about six weeks ago as the driver of a Stryker armored fighting vehicle. He was reportedly trapped under the burning vehicle and told his teammates to run away rather than worry about saving him. In a statement, his family said that “Miller’s final act on this earth was selfless and his sacrifice prevented the deaths of many of his fellow combatants.”
“That same day, Keaton G. Coffey of Boring, Ore., Serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton, Calif., Was also killed in Helmand province. During his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, the 22-year-old was due to be married in July. He had dreamed of becoming a firefighter like his father.
“These 1.3 million mainly represent young men and women, with the best years of their life ahead of them, who have lived and loved, who have played, dreamed and laughed,… and who have done their duty and served faithfully.
“On this Memorial Day, how do we remember it? Although Memorial Day is more than the first day of summer, to which it so often seems to narrow down, it is not a day of mourning, but rather a day of honor and respect, of appreciation for the gift. of the freedom and the sacrifice that it takes to preserve it.
As we happily savor the fruits of freedom with barbecues and picnics, let’s not forget those who paid the price. We should also take the time today to reflect on those who served and who died.
“For me, as for many of you, there are personal memories. I will always remember Captain Michael Ritz of the United States Army. Mike was a fellow cadet in my platoon at the ROTC forward camp at Fort Bragg in the summer of 1977. A Citadel cadet, Mike was a natural leader, who wrote our colorless platoon song which we sang vigorously for the greater pleasure of the “Blacks”. and the blue squads of instructors from the 82d Airborne Division.
“Citadel footballer who dreamed of being drafted into the NFL, Mike went on to serve with the Rangers and the 82nd Airborne Division. In October 1983, Captain Mike Ritz was one of the commanders of the 82nd Airborne Company during the invasion of Grenada. Leading his company from the front, Mike suffered the brunt of a Cuban machine gun salute and was killed. After all these years, who even remembers that we invaded Grenada, let alone the Americans shed their blood there? Yet a few of us do… I still remember Mike’s square jaw, his deep voice… and the sacrifice he made for our nation.
“All around us, in this community, there are local tributes and reminders to those who gave their all for us. The host organization for today’s ceremony, the American Legion Post 13, is named to commemorate two local men from World War I:
“2nd LT Jay F. Clemmer, 318e Infantry, killed in August 1918 in Aisne, France, and …
“Sergeant Robert A. McGuffin, a graduate of Staunton Military Academy, who served in 116e Infantry and was killed in October 1918 in the Meuse-Argonne.
“Our colors were featured today by the Thomas-Fields VFW Post which commemorates two local African-American service members from World War II:
“WHV Cyrus Glenwood Fields, QM Corps, died Christmas Day 1944, and…
“Charles R. Thomas, Class 3 Cook Officers, USN.
“Just to my right is the Thomas D. Howie Armory in memory of MAJ Thomas Howie, ADM instructor and commander of 3rd Battalion, 116e Infantry, killed by mortar fire while his unit was advancing on Saint-Lô during the escape from the Normandy beaches. After saying: “ I will see you in Saint-Lô ” to its commanding general, his troops placed his body, draped in the American flag, on the hood of the leading jeep so that he was the first American to enter. the city and then deposited him on the rubble of the cathedral, where he was immortalized as the “major of Saint-Lô”.
“Mary Baldwin’s Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership Howie rifles keep her memory alive. I pass Tullidge Drive and Tullidge Hall daily, named after Sergeant George Tullidge, who grew up in Staunton and joined the military at 18 after graduating from Staunton Military Academy. Two years later, as part of the 507e Parachute Infantry Regiment, he jumped with his unit to support the invasion of Normandy. He was killed on June 8, 1944, seriously injured, he took control of a machine gun position overlooking the road to Sainte-Mère-Eglise and repulsed the German counter-attack allowing his wounded soldiers to be rescued. He died of his injuries and never left his post to see a doctor.
“Climb Cannon Hill and look at the 31 names on the World War I monument; or look at the plaques on the memorial wall with the names of 100 SMA graduates who died in 4 wars.
“We all walk past the Avenue of Trees, commemorating over 300 war dead in the region from World War I to the present day along several of the city’s main roads.
“Several days ago, I stopped at the most recent trees, added along the road to the Frontier Culture Museum, for 3 Marines killed in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Three bridges in Augusta County remind us the life and sacrifice of Corporals Jason Redifer, Daniel Bubb and Daniel Morris.
“Richmond Road National Cemetery contains hundreds of graves, including 749 Union soldiers, most of them unknown. Here you can visit the new tomb under the tree against the eastern wall of Thomas E. Hodge II, who served in Iraq.
“Thornrose Cemetery contains the remains of over 1,700 Confederate soldiers, many of whom are unknown and buried in a mass grave.
“Although today is a special day of remembrance, these reminders of sacrifice that surround us also serve as a reminder that service and sacrifice are constant and are always with us. We are blessed as a people that in every generation there are courageous men and women who will step forward and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and our way of life.