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Soldiers, civilians and Family members from across the Fort Benning community came together May 23 to honor the sacrifices of fallen service members during a Memorial Day celebration at the National Infantry Museum.
The celebration, which included the playing of taps and a wreath laying, was held in conjunction with a one station unit training graduation ceremony for the 198th Infantry Brigade's B Company, 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment; F Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment; and F Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.
Col. John Marr, the Maneuver Center of Excellence chief of staff, was the event's guest speaker, and said that holding the remembrance during an OSUT graduation represented the legacy of the fallen and the continuing need for Soldiers willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
"It is truly a privilege to be here to both welcome these new Infantrymen into the U.S. Army and to take time to honor and commemorate the service of our nation's fallen warriors," Marr said. "This is a profound reminder of the values that America stands for and the solemn contract between the American people and the American Soldier.
"We are, and I pray that we always will be, one nation under God (and) indivisible, because when diplomacy and negotiations fail, our country has always and will always need Soldiers who are ready to give the last full measure, up to and including their lives. Since they do this willingly, and have since the time of the Revolutionary War up through last week in Afghanistan, I say that we owe them and their Families our unwavering respect, honor, love and support. That's the contract."
Among those in attendance were several Gold Star Family members, all of whom have lost a Family member in combat.
Sharrell Shaw, the widow of Staff Sgt. Alan Shaw, said it was especially rewarding to see new Soldiers honored on the same day the sacrifices of fallen Soldiers were remembered.
"This ceremony today was a great way to remember our Soldiers," Shaw said.
"I have a favorite quote by Emily Potter, and it says, 'Heroes never die. They live on in the hearts and minds of those who would follow in their footsteps.' Today was the embodiment of that. These Soldiers who walked this field today are following in the footsteps of those that have gone before them, and they bring great honor to the sacrifice that my husband and so many others have given on the battlefield."
Brittany Lawrence, the widow of Capt. Joshua Lawrence, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in October 2011, said Memorial Day has taken on a whole new meaning not just since her husband's passing, but since she became an Army wife.
"Before I ever met Josh, I was someone who celebrated with barbecue and beer with the Family by the pool," Lawrence said. "I didn't really realize the amount of sacrifice that had been made for each individual in America. ... (After I got married) I started to understand more about what the military stands for. It isn't just about cold-blooded war. There are a lot of good things going on overseas, regardless of what people may think. We're trying to help people. That's what America stands for."
Shaw said her thoughts on Memorial Day have shifted since 2006, which was the last Memorial Day she spent with her husband.
"I'll never forget my last Memorial Day with my husband," she said. "We had gone to the lake in Arkansas and done the camping and barbecue thing. For us then it was about spending time with Family and friends, and it wasn't until 2007 when he passed that Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning. I understand people want to celebrate the start of summer and spend time with their Family and friends ... but just while people are out barbecuing or celebrating with friends and Family, they should take a second to remember those who aren't able to do that this weekend."