CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
More than 140 years ago, General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed Memorial Day, and May 30, 1868, flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Ceremony for the first time.
Throughout the years, Memorial Day became nationally recognized, and most Americans have developed various traditions that allows them to spend the day remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“[Memorial Day] is a spot in life when everyone ought to pause for a moment and remember those that give us the privilege to wake up a free nation,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Frank E. Johnson, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) command master chief.
More than 300 people from Camp Leatherneck came together to show respect for fallen heroes during a Memorial Day run May 30, 2011.
“We didn’t anticipate this many people coming out,” said Valerie A. Burnham, the center manager of the Camp Leatherneck United Service Organizations. “It just shows the spirit of everyone out here.”
“There was a great turnout,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael F. Jones, the 2nd MEF (Fwd.) sergeant major. “I saw it as a statement like ‘Here we are, all together. We didn’t forget, and we are carrying your legacy forward.’”
Despite the Afghanistan sun beating down and the temperature still being around 100 degrees at 6 p.m., Marines, sailors, airmen, soldiers, civilians and coalition forces gathered in front of the USO to honor all of the fallen heroes.
“I participated in the run to show my support for all of the [troops] who could not and to run alongside all of those who could,” said 1st. Lt. Caitlin T. Ferrarell, the deputy logistics officer with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
For some of the participants, the meaning of this holiday hit close to home.
“My grandfather was a seabee during World War II,” said Cpl. Richard M. Canfield, a wireman with 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “He was a great man and knowing so many men and women, just like him, have served honorably and unselfishly gives this holiday a personal and true meaning to me.”
“Almost all of us have lost somebody in the last ten years between Kuwait, Iraq and now Afghanistan,” Burnham said. “When you’re out there running, you think about those who have given their lives so we’re able to do something like this.”
Although the run was over after five kilometers, the memory of fallen service members last forever.
“It’s important for deployed service members to remember those who have gone before us,” concluded Ferrarell, a Glenview, Ill., native. “Every day we wear this uniform, we are honoring a legacy that has enjoyed many triumphs, but at a great cost.”