The guest speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Hinesville American Legion Post 168 said Americans should “make every day worth the sacrifice of those soldiers” killed in this country’s wars.
“Let us find what we have in common, instead of what divides us” said Col. Scott O’Neal, chief of staff of Task Force Marne.
He noted that service members regardless of background “serve something bigger than themselves,” and Americans have an obligation to take care of their families and “remember and celebrate those noble soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice.”
In all, more than 1.1 million service members have died in America’s wars. Two of them served under O’Neal, who said he was a young cavalry troop commander in Iraq in 2003 trying to “learn how to lead and command in combat,” when he lost Pfc. Damien Bushart and Spec. Robert D. Roberts.
The colonel said he found words to bring home the importance of those men’s deaths in quotes he’d seen hung on walls in his own basic training barracks.
One was that there is “no more noble profession than that of a soldier,” O’Neal said, and the other was, “no one knows the sweetness of sleep more than a soldier.”
O’Neal said he also got perspective from “three simple words” penned by one of his former division commanders, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who also kept 3-by-5 cards with biographical information on each soldier who didn’t make it home,
Those words were, “Make it matter,” O’Neal said.
The son of a soldier who spent his sophomore and junior years of high school at Bradwell Institute before later going on to serve first as an enlisted man and then attending West Point, O’Neal reminded those at Monday’s ceremony that Americans of all backgrounds have volunteered to serve, and not all make it home.
“They come from all across our country and around the world,” O’Neal said. “From different backgrounds, home towns, different races, genders and values.”
“They volunteered to serve others, they volunteered to put their lives in danger so others did not have to,” he said, then added, “Let us make it matter.”
The event was largely attended by veterans and family members, Boy Scouts and 3rd ID soldiers. Retired Sgt. Maj. Adna Chaffee IV provided the invocation.
“Thank you for giving us a time to think about them,” he said, referring to the country’s war dead. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”