America is hope. It is compassion. It is excellence. It is valor.
— former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas
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Memorial Day has appeared as an official date on the calendar since 1971, but there have been memorial days as long as there have been casualties of battle.
We remember the dead. We honor them. Their service. Their commitment. And their sacrifice.
The first proclaimed memorial day was in 1868, when Civil War General John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30 a day of remembrance “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
But, really, families and friends gathered to remember their loved ones long before that. It’s a natural act to remember the people we love, and to honor them for the sacrifices they made for us. Often, that sacrifice results in hardship for surviving families, a fact in colonial times and one that continues on today.
So, while we honor the service, we also grieve the loss.
Yesterday, 23 years after his death, SSG Thomas J. Field was remembered at a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston.
Field, a Navy Seal who grew up in Lisbon, died in Somalia in 1993. He was the crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter that was shot down, and was among 18 who died in the crash and a battle on the streets of Mogadishu immediately afterward.
His name is among 216 names engraved on the 29th memorial stone, which is the newest stone set in the riverside park, bringing the count to over 6,000 names carved in memoriam.
The stones are a project of the LA Veterans Council and carry familiar names of local men and women who have served honorably in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves or Merchant Marines. It’s an impressive compilation, and a standing reminder of service.
The ceremony in Lewiston was the first of a series of memorial events in Maine this weekend, which will include parades and other gatherings on Monday in Paris, Rumford and Mexico, Farmington, Sabattus, Norway, Jay and Livermore Falls, and New Gloucester.
In Falmouth, the parade starts at 10 a.m. at the American Legion Post on Depot Road.
Along that parade route, people will stand to honor Navy Seal Kyle Milliken of Falmouth.
Milliken was killed early this month while advising Somali Army Forces during a raid against Shabab operatives. The pain of his death is still fresh for his family, and is a reminder to us all that American soldiers deployed around the world risk their lives every day in service to our country.
So, take a moment out of your day and stand in support. We must not forget the people who stood up for each of us.