FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A wreath with a ribbon that read “Lest We Forget” was placed in front of the Vanguard of Freedom monument at the Fort Riley Military Cemetery Monday, paying tribute to veterans who served in conflicts around the world and to soldiers who lost their lives in service to our nation.
Fort Riley soldiers, local veterans and members of the community gathered at the post cemetery for the annual Memorial Day observance and to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Brigadier General Donald MacWillie told the crowd: "On this hallowed day, Americans remember the sacrifice of a loved one, a close friend or a comrade in arms. It’s a formal holiday that reminds us that every day is Independence Day in this great nation of ours. As the motto goes, we live in the home of the brave because of the brave. Today we honor those who didn’t make it home by embracing their legacy, by reaffirming our patriotism, by deepening our love of this great country and be showing a devotion to and respect for those who have gone before us- those who sacrificed for those they loved. Today, we meet once again on our hallowed ground. This ground serves as a reminder of the human toll exacted by the conflicts that happen around the world every day. And it reminds us of the people who have lost their lives because of it. The soldiers resting here represent the very best that our nation has to offer for they sacrificed for those they loved. These were extraordinary men and women who rose to meet difficult tasks in extraordinary times."
"In the year since we last met on this hallowed ground, our division has lost 46 soldiers... They are warriors. They’re the heart of the Big Red One and they’re the heart of our nation and their spirit will live as long as this division lives," MacWillie added.
"Today is all about the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and if we don’t take time out to learn from their legacy and honor their legacy, we’re just not doing right by our soldiers that are serving today. It sends a signal both to those who have gone before us and those who are serving today," MacWillie told 13 News after the ceremony.
"They gave the ultimate price so that you could have this holiday and we have to thank them for that. America is free because of our soldier," said local Vietnam veteran Salvador Flores.
Also in the thoughts and prayers of many this Memorial Day are the thousands of 1st Infantry Division soldiers currently deployed to Eastern Afghanistan where the Big Red One's headquarters is leading a regional command.
The 1st Infantry Division headquarters marked its first Memorial Day deployed to Afghanistan with a ceremony on Bagram Airfield.
The Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division and Combined Joint Task Force-1 presided over the ceremony, addressing an audience of Afghan, U.S. and NATO service members.
“Today we take pause from the fight to remember those who have given their lives in defense of our great nation... In Afghanistan, we pay a special tribute to our brothers and sisters who have fallen here: 15 so far under this division’s watch and 1,975 over the last 11 years of combat,” said Major General William C. Mayville Jr.
The division assumed command of the fight in Regional Command-East mid-April.