The freedom of the United States was neither easily granted nor easily kept, Col. Manny Ramirez said Monday morning.
The Fort Stewart garrison commander was the keynote speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day observance at Fred L. Ginter American Legion Post 168, with dozens of veterans and other community members on hand.
“Let us remember that the freedoms we enjoy today were not handed to us on a silver platter,” Col. Ramirez said, “but were earned through the blood, sweat and tears of our military personnel who have fought and died to protect our way of life.”
Soldiers who came back from combat and who bear scars that are seen and unseen also should be remembered, Col. Ramirez said.
He also called to mind the families left behind by the fallen.
“We are humbled by your sacrifice, inspired by your resilience and grateful,” he said.
Col. Ramirez also pointed out that several Army installations, including of some of its largest and most recognized, have been and are getting new names.
Fort Benning is now Fort Moore, named after Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife Julia. As a lieutenant colonel, Moore led the first American troops into a large-scale encounter with the North Vietnamese in the Ia Drang Valley. His tale of the battle became a book, “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” which was then turned into the movie “We Were Soldiers.”
Julia Moore, Col. Ramirez said, pushed for initiatives such as quality of life and that are now common throughout the Army.
“A lot we take for granted today, like childcare, she fought for,” he said.
Fort Gordon will be renamed Fort Eisenhower, the former two-term president who led Allied troops on the Western front in World War II.
Several Virginia bases will get names. Fort A.P. Hill is being renamed for Mary Walker, a volunteer surgeon with the Union Army in the Civil War. Dr. Walker is also the only woman to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The former Fort Lee is now Fort Gregg-Adams, named in honor of two Black soldiers. Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg rose from being an enlisted man during his career in Army logistics, and Lt. Col. Charity Adams was the first Black officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in World War II, later leading the first Black WAAC unit to serve overseas.
Fort Pickett in Virginia has been renamed for Sgt. Van Barfoot, who won a Medal of Honor for his service in Italy in 1944.
Fort Hood in Texas has been renamed for Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for action in Korea and awarded a DSC for service in Vietnam. In Korea, Cavazos led three assaults against an enemy position and made five trips to retrieve wounded soldiers.
“His personal courage and dedication to his soldiers is an example to all of us,” Ramirez said.
Fort Polk in Louisiana will bear the name of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015 for his heroic actions in World War I. Johnson fought off a German raid, using his rifle as a club to attack enemy soldiers after he expended his ammunition. He also was awarded France’s Croix de Guerre.
Fort Rucker has been renamed Fort Novosel for former Army helicopter pilot Michael Novosel. CW4 Novosel received the Medal of Honor for flying medevac missions under fire in Vietnam, ultimately flying 29 wounded soldiers to safety. In his two tours of duty, Ramirez pointed out, Novosel flew 2,543 extractions and rescued more than 5,500 wounded soldiers.
During an encounter with enemy forces in October 1969, beginning at 5 a.m. and ending 18 hours later, Novosel made six trips to rescue wounded soldiers, with no place to land and often under enemy fire.
Col. Ramirez noted there are “many examples of men and women across the ages who exhibited the ore Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal heroism.
“On this Memorial Day, I hope we can remember the common bond that we have with the soldiers who have gone before us, who selflessly served our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Ramirez, a third-generation soldier whose family is about to extend the military profession to a fourth generation, said attending Memorial Day events ensures soldiers and their service “will resonate with Americans for years to come.
“May their bravery and selflessness truly inspire us as we strive to build a better and more just world,” Col. Ramirez said.