Memorial Day’s true meaning appears to have been lost on too many Americans, who view the holiday as merely a time for cookouts and an unofficial start to summer. Such was the message at this year’s Memorial Day service at Fred L. Ginter American Legion Post 168 on Monday. The Veterans, active duty Soldiers, military spouses and dependents who faithfully observe the Legion’s somber Memorial Day service each year, honor the sacrifices of the countless fallen in America’s wars and remember those with whom they served.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Adna Chaffee IV welcomed guests to the observance and offered an invocation. The 3rd ID Color Guard posted the Colors, and Gracie Byler sang the National Anthem. Several Soldiers held up the Honor and Remembrance Flag, as Chaffee explained what each of its colors stand for.
This year, Major General Lee Quintas Jr., commanding general of the 3rd ID, was the event’s keynote speaker. Quintas said it was appropriate for him to make this event one of his last official appearances in the community, as he will be saying goodbye to Fort Stewart in a change of command ceremony June 3.
Quintas told the gathering that one of the earliest Memorial Day type of observances was when bereaved families remembered their fallen Union soldiers following the Civil War. Later, the observance was extended to remember Confederate soldiers as well, making it a reconciliatory event. The observance was called Decoration Day, and its founding was credited to General John Logan, who led an organization of Union Civil War veterans. The May date for the observance was chosen because it specifically did not correspond to any specific Civil War battle, he said, and allowed mourners to place springtime flowers on their loved ones’ graves. The solemn holiday was renamed Memorial Day following World War I, the general said.
Quintas admitted that during his boyhood, Memorial Day did not hold serious meaning for him, as it does today. World War II is now more than 70 years in the past, the Vietnam War took place more than 40 years ago, and even Desert Storm is 20-plus years behind us, he said.
Many young Americans lack the context to understand the meaning of Memorial Day, Quintas said. But there are young Soldiers now serving who do understand. The general recounted the service and sacrifice of one of his dogface soldiers, Cpl. Joseph Maciel, who he said exemplified honor and commitment. Maciel was attached to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division and deployed in support of the 1st Security Assistance Brigade. He died in the line of duty while protecting American advisors in Afghanistan from Taliban fighters. Maciel was killed by an enemy hand grenade on July 7, 2018, the general said. Maciel has a tree planted in his honor, No. 469, on Warriors’ Walk, Quintas said.
“He was exactly where he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to do,” the general said. Quintas added that the millennials who serve in an all-volunteer force stand on the achievements of those who went before them.
Quintas then assisted with a ROTC awards presentation, which was followed by the playing of Taps, Retiring of the Colors and a benediction.