With the big flag at half-mast, Hawthorne residents gathered to pay tribute to those lost in war. Flags fluttered in the cemetery, flowers were tenderly placed upon headstones and people walked quietly amongst their loved ones at the Hawthorne cemetery.
Memorial Day started as Decoration Day as a way to honor the Civil War dead, where the practice of decorating graves began.
Unlike services in the past, Lt. Col. Gregory Gibbons spoke of personal experience on the loss of those within his family, who gave the ultimate sacrifice and were supported by the Gold Star Families.
He spoke of his Uncle Brian, who lost his life in Vietnam and the effects it had on his father. Only three times did he hear his father speak of his uncle. Once in passing, he reminded the family of his brother’s birthday and twice in emails to Gibbons who was deployed.
One of those emails was a letter written to his grandmother, from a young man, who was with his uncle the day he died. Gibbons grandmother had become a Gold Star Mother.
Another story was about Gibbons adopted sister Jennifer who became a member of the Gold Star family too early in life. Within a year of being married, she had become pregnant and in her third month of pregnancy, right after the Twin Towers fell, Jennifer would lose her husband in Afghanistan. His son was born six months later.
Today, Jennifer speaks out for other Gold Star Members and fights for their rights and helps them deal with the loss of their loved ones.
“Today is Memorial Day, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but I shared these stories with you because today we also remember and honor our Gold Star family members. They will never stand alone; we will be there to listen when they want to share or just be there and nod in shared knowledge and understanding when they are silent,” Gibbons would say, many times clearly affected by his own emotions of the losses he too has endured.
Ken Carrothers, commander of American Legion Post 19, recalled the history of Memorial Day until now. He said, “From our founding Revolution to today’s Global War on Terrorism, nearly one million men and women in the Armed Forces have sacrificed their lives while defending America in time of war. The numbers of our fallen heroes are not just statistics. They are real people, with real families, who lived in real communities.”
Communities like Hawthorne.
Finishing up his speech, Gibbons would tell those gathered, “…And that is why we country men, we “America’s Patriotic Home” gather to stand here today, to honor them forever.”
“So on this Memorial Day and every other day of the year; let us all those that have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy all the freedoms we have today and please let us not forget to keep in our prayers those currently serving to protect our great country,” Dee Schaar, member of Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 2313 would state at the end of the ceremony.
To the sound of Taps, the names of the Mineral County fallen were read. One ring for each – but so many memories to fill the void.
As Americans take to celebrating the three day holiday with barbecues, the real meaning of Memorial Day slips away.
But under the stars and stripes and in the cemetery, those who have fought and those who have lost gather to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice. That of our prior generations.