The possibility of rain brought this year’s Belvoir Memorial Day observance indoors, and the very real risk of infectious spread meant the annual event was shared via Facebook live, with a small number of people in Thurman Auditorium.

Col. Michael Greenberg, Garrison commander, noted that Memorial Day is a chance to honor the many who served to give their last measure of devotion.

“Our nation has been shaped and made possible by those who have served and by those who were lost. We remember and honor our warriors who have fallen, not only on Memorial Day, but every day, said Greenberg.”

Greenberg introduced keynote speaker, Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams, Defense Logistics Agency director.  

A special sense of duty

“By holding this ceremony, on this critical installation, we’re showing, by example, that it’s still important to revisit the values and traditions of Memorial Day, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Williams said.

“As we take time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom and security of our nation, thousands of men and women continue to serve on active duty, and in the Guard and Reserves, across the nation and around the world. They’re volunteers – every single one of them,” he said. “And, on their shoulders rests the security of our nation.

 “They possess a sense of duty I think is truly special. Our nation endures because of citizens like those who love our country and are also willing to fight

for it,” Williams said. “What binds those who are currently serving today to the ones who have served over the past two and half centuries, is that they step forward, when required, to answer our nation’s call.

The people behind the numbers

Williams urged the audience to not lose sight of the fact that those aren’t just numbers, but are people. They are individually unique and they have families and loved ones they’re connected to.

Williams highlighted a couple of personal stories, including Army Staff Sgt. Travis Adkins, who was serving in Iraq with D Company, of the 10th Mountain Division. While conducting a route security mission in the town of Abu Samak, Atkins apprehended and began to search a group of insurgents. One of the insurgents resisted, and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat.

Atkins realized the insurgent was attempting to trigger a suicide vest that was under his clothing. Despite Atkins’ best efforts, he finally succeeded in reaching his vest. Rather than run, Atkins tackled the bomber in a bear-hug, pinning him to the ground and shielding his fellow Soldiers from the imminent explosion. He saved the three others who were with him, at the cost of his own life.

“So, the next time you visit our national cemeteries, or our American cemeteries overseas,

and you gaze down the row upon row of headstones marking the final resting places of our fallen heroes, understand that each name etched in stone has its own story. How they died is not as important as how they lived,” he said. “These individuals served a higher purpose; they accepted hardship at great risk to themselves. They embodied the most important values and the very best of our nation.

“If we truly want to honor our fallen heroes, and give meaning to their sacrifices and longevity to their names, we’ll resolve to strengthen our commitment to our nation and the values for which they stand.”