Service members, veterans and community members gathered at Fort Gordon on Thursday for the annual remembrance ceremony, honoring fallen service members ahead of Memorial Day.
“The ceremony provides a time of reflection for families of fallen service members,” said Jane Barnard with Army Community Services. “For military loss as a parent, spouse, brother, sister or fellow service member, Memorial Day takes on a different meaning.”
Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Todd Turner called the event a somber occasion.
“Fort Gordon’s theme for this year’s warrior remembrance ceremony is Honoring Our Heroes,” Turner said. “It’s about showing our respect and gratitude for our fallen soldiers and their family members who have one of the most difficult times of their lives.”
Turner said keeping memories alive and honoring the lives lost is the reason Memorial Day is celebrated. He told the crowd that flags will be raised to full staff Monday morning, and then slowly lowered to half, signifying those who have fallen. At noon, flags will be raised back to full staff to recognize the celebration of those lives by the living.
Renee Brent, whose late husband was Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Brent, spoke to the survivors and other members of the crowd.
“Those who gave their tomorrow for our today; if it weren’t for brave soldiers like our family members and the soldiers here today, we wouldn’t have today,” she said.
Brent called Memorial Day unlike other holidays and said the nation is indebted.
“I served in the military before I became a widow and I understood Memorial Day intellectually, in my mind. I understood that it was for the fallen,” she said. “It wasn’t until they gave me that folded flag that I understood it in my heart.”
Brent said the fallen lived with a purpose, and Memorial Day was set aside to honor them. She encouraged people to take part in activities their loved ones enjoyed and to celebrate their lives. Brent advised the audience to help create new memories in younger family members to pass legacies on for future generations.
“Their final sacrifice was for their country, and you couldn’t ask for something better than that,” she said. “We are in their debt.”
After her remarks, family members of fallen soldiers Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen, Master Sgt. Henry Smith, Spc. Eric Christian, and Staff Sgt. Rodney Hope were honored. Family members were escorted to a remembrance table where they placed flags in their loved ones’ honor. Members of the audience followed and planted flags in honor of loved ones they, too, have lost.
“We have the greatest respect and utmost appreciation for our fallen’s contribution and sacrifice and we are proud to honor all of them,” Turner said.
Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.