[CORRECTION 5/28/19: The Commonwealth Journal erroneously referred to a lodge to be constructed for the families of veterans hospitalized at VA facilities in Lexington as a Ronald McDonald House. The correct name will be Friends of Lexington Fisher House, which has also been corrected in the story below.]
As families gathered Monday to honor their lost loved ones, many were on hand for the annual Memorial Day Service at Mill Springs National Cemetery.
The time-honored tradition included participation from heroes made (American Legion Post 38, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 269, Somerset Police Department) and heroes yet to be (Southwestern High School JROTC and Scouts of America). The Patriot Riders were also recognized for placing flags at each marker.
But the pomp and circumstance played a backseat to the heartfelt tributes to those who sacrificed for this country's freedom as well as those who continue to do so.
"Memorial Day is really not a happy occasion," Mill Springs Battlefield Association board member Michael Bouchard, a retired Brigadier General with the U.S. Army, stated. "It's a somber occasion. It doesn't mean that it's a sad occasion because we do honor those men and women who have given their lives serving our nation and protecting us. We both mourn for their loss but we also honor their lives and their full measure of service."
Gen. Bouchard introduced the ceremony's keynote speaker, Brigadier General Howard P. Hunt III -- also retired from the Kentucky Air National Guard after a 34-year career. He noted that Gen. Hunt has continued his public service in the political arena -- having been elected last fall as Boyle County Judge-Executive.
"It's not about anybody that's here; it's about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," Gen. Hunt said. "The people who have died provided freedom in our country…They gave up their todays for our tomorrows. Now we must continue with the same determination and dedication that they had so that we can ensure that today's generation and the generations of our future understand their sacrifices. For there is no greater way to honor the dead than to keep their memory alive."
The retired general gave a brief history of Memorial Day, which began as "Decoration Day" in May 1868, as well as noted the local numbers of military fallen. "It's a somber holiday dedicated to honor our military fallen, with special focus on those killed in military service or through enemy contact," Hunt said, calling them "ordinary people doing extraordinary things."
Gen. Hunt garnered applause from the crowd when he said that the best thing citizens can do to honor that service and sacrifice "is to make our nation, our state, our cities and our counties better each and every day." He added that we must also preserve their legacy "by passing along our knowledge of their sacrifices to the next generation so they understand that freedom is not free."
In leading the invocation, American Legion Post 38 Chaplain Clarence Floyd noted that the field of white markers not only represented a soldier but also the family. "Think of the time that was spent in order for us to be free today," he said. "Lord, we thank you today for those that are standing tall across our world that keep us safe."
Floyd also asked those in attendance to join him in prayer for the successful construction of a Friends of Lexington Fisher House for veterans' families at the Leestown VA campus in Lexington. "It's going to be a great asset to our veterans in this whole region," Floyd said, "in fact, the state of Kentucky."
The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute and the placement of a memorial wreath at the grave of Sergeant Brent Woods, an African-American from Pulaski County who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service out west during the Indian campaigns.
Pulaski County Fallen Soldiers
World War I -- 22
World War II -- 118
Korean War -- 10
Vietnam War -- 15
War on Terror -- 1