By John Waterman
By John Waterman
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid,” said former President Harry S. Truman. “They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifice.”
This statement still holds true today as those who preserve our freedoms and serve our country are thought of with the utmost respect as they fight to preserve the freedoms which Americans hold dear.
Memorial Day has been set aside as a day of remembrance for our men and women in the armed forces. A single day to remember the sacrifices they have made throughout the course of American history.
Janet Green, vice president on the Riverside City College Board of Trustees, spoke at the RCC Memorial Day Recognition Event May 21, as well as helped coordinate the first RCC fly over where three T34s from the Operational Unit out of March Air Force Base Reserves made two passes directly over the RCC Quadrangle. The fighter planes soared overhead as onlookers applauded with eyes peering upward.
“Watch the sky, thank our veterans, and thank our service men and women fighting for us today. Thank you ever so much,” Green said.
With viewers standing with their hands over their hearts, RCC Chamber Singer Gretchen Dobschutz sang the National Anthem at the event.
The keynote Speaker at the event was Marine Sergeant Bob Simonsen who served in Vietnam for 13 months from 1968-69.
Simonsen, who has received a purple heart, addressed the audience in attendance speaking of his personal experiences in Vietnam, as well as a brief history regarding the holiday.
The day was established in May 1868 to honor the Union Soldiers who fell during the civil war; he explained how it was originally referred to as Declaration Day and was finally changed to Memorial Day in 1882. It was later expanded proceeding World War One to include all Americans who have died in war or military action.
Simonsen painted a vivid picture of the casualties of war and sacrifice as he recalled a specific event which took place 41 years ago on May 16 when his company was stationed near Go Noi Island, Vietnam which was a notorious station for the Vietnam Army.
He explained how he and his platoon surprised the enemy in a fire fight which left several dead and landed him in a field hospital with bullet shrapnel piercing his helmet. He later completed his time in service and did not talk much about the war, though he relived many of his experiences on the daily bases in that place that never forgets.
Eventually he began writing military books which gave him, as well as other veterans, the opportunity to tell their stories.
“If you are able, save them a place inside of you, and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go,”said a poem by Army Major Michael O’Donnell. “Be not ashamed to say you love them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men feel safe to call the war insane take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you’ve left behind.”
The event illustrated several monuments of the acknowledgment of service.
Firstly, memorial crosses were placed symbolizing the fallen soldiers in every American war beginning with the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, listing the date each war took place and the number of fallen from each.
Also the MIA Table was placed directly in the center of the event with a black table cloth, an empty plate and cup for those who have paid the highest price to preserve the freedoms of all Americans.
“Hopefully this day will continue to be a reminder of the sacrifice that our Veterans and those who have died in combat paid for us,” said Dr. Edward Bush, vice president of student services. “Take a moment of silence, if you pray make a prayer, if you meditate, meditate; if you sit in silence, sit in silence; whatever you do to acknowledge those who have sacrificed.”