While some people spent Friday, May 27, preparing for a long weekend having fun with family and friends, a small group of men gathered at Pikeville’s Veterans Memorial Park to pay tribute to those who gave all in service to their country.
Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3769 Pikeville held a small ceremony which included prayer, a brief talk by Post Commander Charles Atkinson and a rifle volley in memory of the fallen to kick off the Memorial Day weekend, in hopes that people would use the occasion , if even for a moment, in the way they did — remembering others.
Atkinson said following the ceremony that Memorial Day and Veterans Day, which is in November, are often confused by members of the general public.
“Memorial Day is a remembrance of the people who served our country… who gave their lives in service for our freedom,” he said. “Veterans Day is a thanksgiving to those who served that are still alive. Memorial Day is for those who have. perished in those conflicts or perished at home due to the injuries that they received in their combat. ”
Not all of those wounds, Atkinson said, are visible wounds.
“There are fellow comrades that I’ve served with that perished in war, but then there are some from the emotional trauma that they suffered, they’ve taken their own lives,” he said.
That is why the post holds events and makes it a mission to reach out to veterans, to raise awareness of the mental wounds military service can bring, and, hopefully, save lives.
Atkinson said there were many who would be on his mind throughout the weekend and beyond, including his father, a Korean War veteran, who is still alive.
The very possibility of holding the ceremony, he said, is thanks to those who risked, and gave, all.
“It’s the lives of those that died on the battlefield, that fought for our freedom, that give us the ability to even be here on this day to remember,” he said. “Without their sacrifice, we could very well be in bondage like so many other countries around the world, restricted, ”he said.
State VFW Senior Vice Commander Nathan Sesco, a member of Post 3769, agreed that the holiday is subject to misunderstanding.
“A lot of people really don’t understand it,” he said. “To our post, every day is Veterans Day, except today. Today is the day we remember the fallen, our brothers and sisters who went before us. It hits. home to a lot of us, especially VFW-wise. It really brings back the memories of people we knew. ”
Sesco said there are several who the holiday brings to his mind, including Specialist Darius T. Jennings and Army Spc. David M. McKeever, as well as the lieutenant who Sesco drove while in service overseas.
In memory of those men, as well as the others who died in conflict, Sesco said, it’s important that people live the best lives possible.
“I tell everybody, (those who served) got a chance to live our second life the day we got back, and we have to live the best life we’ve got,” he said. and we have cookouts and we spend time with our families, as we should, because everybody who gave their life gave us a chance to do that. ”
The gift those men and women gave, is something which must be recognized, Sesco said.
“We are given a gift of the country we live in,” he said. “Other people sacrificed themselves for us.”