Col. Terry Michael of the 1st Medical Brigade at Fort Cavazos spent his Thursday afternoon with the Rotary Club of Temple to remember and pay respects to each and every service member who selflessly put their life on the line for freedom.
“Our fallen men and women are the ultimate examples of patriotism, sacrifice and valor,” he said during a luncheon at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Temple. “For many of us, we don’t know or didn’t realize that more than a million people have lost their lives fighting for the United States.”
Michael discussed the impact that each death brings.
“Every day there are American families who pray for the sound of a familiar voice when their phone rings,” he said. “But for more than 1 million times in our nation’s history that did not come. Instead, there was a knock on the front door and an unfamiliar face with an unfamiliar voice delivering unthinkable news.”
Michael took a moment to honor Army Staff Sgt. Daniel D. Merriweather, 25, and Pfc. Geoffrey A. Whitsitt, 21, who lost their lives on Jan. 13, 2010, in Afghanistan after enemy forces attacked their Humvee with an improvised explosive device.
“They were the first soldiers that we lost in that rotation,” he said. “They gave their lives so that our lives might be secure, so that our sons and daughters might grow up and pursue whatever dreams they desire, so that we might be able to live a long life free and secure, and so that we might be able to raise our families in the land of peace and freedom. They are no longer here, but I live to tell their schools, I strive to honor their service and sacrifice every day with my own, and I remind all that they did not die in vain.”
Michael hopes other Americans will do the same come Memorial Day on Monday.
“The essence of Memorial Day can be found in the stories of ordinary Americans who become extraordinary for the most simple reasons,” he said. “They simply love their country so deeply and profoundly that they were willing to give their lives to keep it safe and free.”
During the program, Michael also helped the Rotary Club of Temple honor two Vietnam-era veterans: Osby Stratton who served in the Army and Temple resident Thomas Hughes who served in the Navy and Air Force Reserve.
Since the Rotary Club of Temple first became a part of the National Commemoration group in 2016, it has recognized more than 300 veterans for their service during the Vietnam conflict.
Stratton, a Georgetown resident, was thankful for the recognition.
“It’s great to have something like this that shows appreciation,” he told the Telegram. “I spent a couple of months at Fort Bliss and a couple months at Fort Huachuca but I spent most of my time in Vietnam. It was like a different world but I made it there and I made it back. I have friends who I knew well that did not make it. Then there were some who made it but they weren’t the same as they were when they left. So I’m very grateful to be able to stand here and talk to you.”
Hughes, a Vietnam-era veteran, shared that gratitude and alluded to his older brother who died recently.
“My older brother just passed away about a year and a half ago, and he had close to 40 years of service, regular and reserve,” he said. “He was in the Navy — we’re a Navy family — and he was my shining star so to speak.”
Like Michael, Hughes hopes Americans spend their Memorial Day in reflection.
“Get the flags out and fly them and try to understand just what Memorial Day is all about,” he said.
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