GROTON — Colonel Michael J. Graham of the 751st Electronic Systems Group at Hanscom Air Force Base was the Memorial Day parade’s grand marshal and gave the memorial address at the Groton cemetery.
“Today we remember, today we honor, today we give thanks,” Col. Graham began. “Thanks for being here on this peaceful hill on the day when we thank those brave men and women, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedoms we hold so dear,” he said.
Decoration Day dates to 1868 and the Civil War, Graham said. Major Gen. John Logan made the tradition a promise when he declared “We will never, never forget,” Graham said. Congress passed an act designating the last Monday in May as Memorial Day in 1971.
“We lay flowers to remember,” all of the war dead, he said, from the American Revolution and the Civil War that “tested the fabric of the republic” to two world wars that tested democracy across the globe. “Today, we are again a nation at war,” Graham said.
He said that as the Air Force celebrates its 60th anniversary, American armed forces have been in conflict for 15 years, from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan to Iraq. “All of the lost soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen offered themselves as shields to keep war from our front doors,” he said. “They put themselves in harm’s way so we can live in peace.”
He said every loss was a loss to the nation, though “most importantly to the families who grieve,” and all of us struggle to find meaning in their sacrifice. It may be found in the simple acts of free people, Graham said, such as citizens voting without threat of violence and children playing outside, in safety, in their home towns.
As for the families of the fallen, “we hope their anguish is tempered by knowing their loved ones died for a noble cause,” he said.
Col. Graham spoke of Maj. Troy Gilbert, who died in Iraq and who exemplifies the spirit of sacrifice Graham described. Gilbert engaged the enemy while under fire to help save the lives of a helicopter crew and other ground forces, he said. “His final act was selfless, which was the way his family said he’d always lived his life.”
Gilbert was one of many men and women across America who answered the call of duty, Graham said, and some of them won’t come home. “It is our responsibility to ensure they are never forgotten,” he said. “Today, we remember. Today we honor. Today, we give thanks.”