Memorial Day assembly promotes remembrance, recognition of sacrifice


Connor Lawless

Juniors Brahm Vanantwerp and Alex Rybarczyk talked and paid respects to some of the veterans who attended the assembly.

Elissa Gorman, Editor-in-Chief

“Veterans have given so much for this country, more than you could ever see…,” Marine Corps Master Sergeant Dan Miller said.  “Veterans are the blanket of freedom woven through their sacrifices. That blanket of freedom is what covers us and allows us to be here today, that blanket of freedom is what you sleep under at night; it allows you to be free.”

Miller’s words rang out over a silent audience at the Memorial Day assembly held on May 25 organized by Operation Tomahawk.  According to Operation Tomahawk president Allan Bramhill, the goal of this event was to honor and raise awareness for people who have served and continue to serve in the military.

“[Memorial Day] means different things to different people, but a powerful thing I notice is looking at pictures of certain veterans that have been killed, especially around Memorial Day,” Bramhill said.  “You can look at a smiling face that’s staring back at you that’s willing to do anything for you – and they did…I just think it’s very very important for people to understand that.”

According to First Class Navy Petty Officer Jered Sasen, Americans have been willing to lay down their lives in the name of freedom throughout history, from the fighters of the Revolutionary War to the soldiers deployed overseas today.

“America has been blessed to have citizens who will serve, fight, and sometimes die for this country,” Sasen said.  “It is not for money or medals that such people step forward, it is for patriotism and the values on which America was founded: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Sasen implores the public to realize the extent of the sacrifices made by soldiers, past and present.  Beyond physical wounds, many have experienced emotional trauma and difficulty reintegrating into society.

Upon his return, facing divorce papers, fear and immense pain, Miller found himself “in a car, on the side of a road, with a gun buried in [his] head.”  He explained that during his time fighting, he had never fully addressed his feelings, resulting in an extreme burden of guilt and anger that eventually led to contemplating suicide.

“I couldn’t stop people from killing each other,” Miller said, his voice trembling.

Miller eventually found healing through the Wounded Warriors Project, where he met other veterans who shared his pain.  He reiterates that his experience is not an isolated one; according to the U.S. Department of Federal Affairs, up to 20 percent of veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Army Staff Sergeant Andrew Menard corroborates Miller’s sentiments.

“When you’re out there and you’re taking care of people, you have to desensitize…” Menard said.  “Those that don’t want to talk about what happened overseas struggle the most.”

For Miller, each Memorial Day brings the remembrance of those he could not save.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I wouldn’t lay down my life if I could get them all home, and that is a burden I will bear for the rest of my life,” Miller said.  “You never forget them.”

On behalf of all who have served, Sasen urges students to acknowledge that this Monday, May 28, is more than a day off of school.

“This Memorial Day, with heavy hearts, we recall those lost,” Sasen said.  “They had names, families, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, children, neighbors.  It is their ultimate sacrifice that has paid for the freedoms we enjoy today. In an effort to repay a debt which can never truly be repaid, we must honor the legacy of our nation’s fallen by educating all those who believe that Memorial Day is just another holiday.”