MORONGO BASIN -- Combat Center key personnel and support staff dedicated their Memorial Day morning to the remembrance of America’s fallen heroes at the Twentynine Palms Memorial Cemetery and Joshua Tree Memorial Park and Mortuary, May 25, 2015.
Maj. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, Combat Center Commanding General, represented the Combat Center as the guest speaker in the Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony at Twentynine Palms Memorial Cemetery. He opened his address by speaking about the somber, yet proud beginnings of Memorial Day, which was originally designated Decoration Day following the Civil War.
“On that first Decoration Day in 1868, all the graves in Arlington, both Union and Confederate were decorated with flowers and flags,” Craparotta said. “It was only three years after the Civil War, a war in which 600,000 Americans died for a cause that they held dearer than their own lives. And for 100 year plus, the day continued to mean visiting and decorating graves, town squares, or town memorials dedicated to those serving this nation. We celebrated with parades and civic events much like we’re doing here this morning.”
Craparotta shared with the audience his childhood memories of Memorial Day in the 1960s and '70s; A time when the nation was imbued with the veterans of two World Wars, the Korean War and the transpiring war in Vietnam.
“As Americans, we kept this day quiet, pausing to remember those who so willingly gave of themselves so that we could remain safe and protected at home,” Craparotta said. “Today, after more than 10 years at war, we have a new generation of veterans. We have a new generation of families who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one. We are again surrounded by veterans who have shown that same willingness to sacrifice for something bigger than themselves. And we must be careful, as a nation, that we don’t let the meaning of Memorial Day slip.”
With Craparotta’s words hanging thick in the mild desert air, the ceremony continued with presentations of memorial wreaths and came to a close with the echoing cracks of a rifle salute.
Just two hours later and 16 miles away, Col. Andrew Kennedy, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, addressed a similar audience during the Joshua Tree Memorial Park Memorial Day ceremony for the second consecutive year.
“The beauty of this day serves as a reminder of the beauty of life itself,” Kennedy began. “This commemoration though, is not about life. It’s about death and sacrifice.”
Kennedy went on to discuss the hardships that war veterans endure and the noble sacrifices they make in order to keep the memories and scars of combat outside of America’s borders. He concluded his address with the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifice so many American service members have so readily paid.
“Life is a profound and passionate thing if we live it to our fullest,” Kennedy said. “Let our knowledge of the vastness of the sacrifice of our war-dead strengthen our resolve to live with faith and courage and enthusiasm in a way that will in some measure justify the treasure they spent. Let us remember them as they lived. Let us not forget.”
The audience paused with bated breath, deeply impacted by Kennedy’s words and sentiment. Veterans old and young, women and children, members of the community all joined together, raised from their seats and applauded; some with dignity and pride etched in their faces, some with beginnings of tears welling in their eyes. Headquarters Battalion once again provided the indelible crack of a rifle salute and this time ended the ceremony with a performance of "Taps" by a lone bugler as the audience paid their silent respects. In that moment, the community was one.