Memorial Day—More Than a Four Day weekend

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. James Fink
  • 336th Training Support Squadron first sergeant
As you prepare to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, I hope you take a moment to remember your fallen comrades. I can attest that it only takes a moment for a life to end.

In March 2007, I went to Fort Reilly, Kansas for Combat Skills Training to prepare for deployment as an Embedded Training Team member in Afghanistan.

On our second day at there, my class was called to the Chapel to honor a fallen soldier. As I sat in the pew, I noticed a memorial display--a Soldier's Cross (an M-4 rifle with a helmet on top displayed behind a pair of boots with a pair of dog tags dangling from the cross). I knew that this would be something I had never experienced before. Unfortunately, it would not be the last time I found myself gazing at a fallen soldier's cross display.

After training, I deployed to Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan on May 16 2007. On May 28, Memorial Day, everyone at the Camp was called together to remember those members who had lost their life during Operation Enduring Freedom. It was a solemn event that brought tears to even the most combat hardened soldier. I did not realize how close to home this would soon hit.

Two months later, My chief notified me that we had lost someone in our unit. My Commander brought everyone together to the chapel to notify us that Master Sgt. Randy Gillespie was killed in Heart, Afghanistan. During my training in Kansas, I had the pleasure of meeting Sergeant Gillespie. If I had known then, what I know now, I would have cherished that moment more.

On June 15 2007, we conducted a memorial service where we employed an age-old Army ceremony. The Combined Security Transition Command Soldiers and Airmen lined up in formation facing a Soldier's Cross. Our Air Force first sergeant called roll:

Sergeant Fink, here first sergeant; Sergeant Plunkett, here first sergeant; Sergeant Gillespie, silence; Master Sergeant Randy Gilespie, silence; Master Sergeant Randy Gilespie, silence

Suddenly, a 21-gun salute pierced the silence and the moment concluded with the playing of "Taps."

The memorial service was heart-wrenching, but it allowed me to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.

So, with Memorial Day Weekend approaching, I ask that you take a moment away from the BBQ, the lake, and your honey do lists. Pause to remember those who fought, for those who gave their life, and for those who willingly stand ready to do the same, without question, when the defense of freedom calls upon them. We owe each of them the highest regard, respect, and honor - and the assurance that their commitment to this Nation's freedom will never be forgotten. May God bless America!