Friday, June 3, 2016

Remember them on Memorial Day

When thanked for his service, World War II veteran Marty Brittingham said “just doing my duty as a citizen.”

That response always made me smile when I thanked veterans at the end of the interview for their time and for their service. Brittingham enlisted at 18 after he graduated high school and served in the Coast Guard from 1942 to 1946.

Brittingham still remembers his service number: 562425. He said it so fast and with pride that I asked him to repeat it slowly so I could write it down. He was one of many veterans that I met and interviewed over the years at a Memorial Day parade.

I grew up watching holiday parades. At a young age, the Memorial Day parade ranked as my favorite. I later participated in parades in high school and college with the color guard, a part of the marching band. Now I’m reporting on the Memorial Day parade and most recently I’m participating in holiday parades with my fire company. A few of our members have served and currently serve in the military. The men and women in the fire service and other organizations take pride in participating in such parades nationwide to honor the men and women of our armed forces who died to keep us free.

During interviews and events, family members talked about their loved ones who served and World War II veterans recalled that many of their classmates didn’t come home.

“It’s so wonderful to see so many people gathered here to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Nick Argonish said. His brother, Sgt. Jan M. Argonish, was killed at 26 during the war in 2007.

During a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Lionville Middle School, Principal Jonathan Ross asked his students to remember what the holiday means as they celebrate it because “it’s nothing short of a tragedy that not enough of our fellow Americans remember to do so.” He asked them to “honor the sacrifices that make us free.”

“It is the blood spilled on our behalf that makes us free,” Ross said. “That sacrifice, that selfless act is why we should all honor this holiday.”

He asked his students to help future generations to do the same, something we should all do.

“Remember that as we speak, there are men and women still spending months and years away from their families, knowing at any moment they could be the next to fall in the name of freedom,” Ross said.

A float at the Downingtown parade had an enlarged handwritten check made out to the United States of America at the cost of “my life” dated as “anytime.”
Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar, Daily Local News
The check made out to the United States of America for my life at anytime is a reminder of what the men and women serving in the armed forces are willing to do to protect their country. 

Jill Hardy recalled April 28, 2006, the day her son, Cpl. Brandon Hardy, was killed in a terrorist attack while on patrol in Iraq. She said he “died fulfilling his greatest passion: serving his country.” He was 25.

“I know Brandon was proud and honored to have died for his country… and for the freedom of each of us,” Hardy said during the school ceremony. “It is because of the daily sacrifice of those who have served, and the 1,354,664 men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice that we can celebrate our freedom today. That is the truest purpose of Memorial Day. These courageous men and women face death while fighting to protect our freedom, and safeguard our illimitable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

She said Brandon told his family that he had “only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

Those who come home in a flag-draped coffin have one request: remember them.

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