Memorial Day has become a significant, unofficial start of summer for most Americans with backyard barbeques, family get-togethers, war movie marathons, road races, golf tournaments and weather permitting, a splash in the local pool.
However, the real meaning of Memorial Day has not been forgotten by the family and friends that gathered at Bryn Zion Cemetery; honoring those men and women that paid the ultimate price to ensure our freedoms.
Guest speaker and Veteran Colonel Steve Schemine stated so elegantly as he remembered his time in the armed services and three men he had the opportunity to serve with. He began by sharing about his time in Germany and visiting the American cemeteries there that honored fallen soldiers.
Schemine described in detail the image of white crosses and Star of David that marked the graves of so many men and women. Those crosses would take on a different perspective in the years to come. In April 2012 his 37th Infantry Brigade Combat team was deployed to Afghanistan, he remained behind to serve families and soldiers state side.
Colonel Schemine told the crowd, “As soldiers our whole purpose is to prepare and train for when we get that call to go into combat. We also know that with that call, our friends and those we serve with can pay the ultimate price. Even though we know that, I do not believe we are ever fully prepared when it happens.”
On April 5th he received a call telling him that a suicide bomber had hit his brigade and there were three confirmed casualties. Three men that he knew personally and served with; hearing their names made that event personal. Colonel Schemine went on to share his memories of the weeks following that day. As he kneeled on one knee and presented a folded flag to the parents of one of the fallen soldiers he spoke the words heard by so many others before, “On behalf of a grateful nation I present to you this flag in honor of your son’s dedicated, faithful and courageous service. The look of immense pride and immense pain at the same time on the face of his father is forever engrained in my mind.”
He concluded his speech by recreating the image of the white crosses, so perfectly set in cemeteries across our nation.
“Behind every white cross, every Star of David, every name engraved on a memorial wall, behind every pace that is marched off at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, behind every bracelet engraved with the name of a fallen warrior whose remains are yet to be found, there is a story. There is a person, there is a long list of family, friends and co-workers that knew and loved that person. There is now a void in their life. The crosses in the American cemeteries represents a life lived, a soldier fallen, real people that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Following the very poignant and moving personal account of his three friends Colonel Schemine concluded by sharing the Army code and the meaning behind the “Table set for One” at a formal dining ceremonies.
This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
The table is round to represent everlasting concern on the part of the survivors for their missing loved ones.
The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America.
This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.
The yellow ribbon on the vase represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight.
A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The inverted glass represents that the missing and fallen cannot partake.
The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
The bible on the table represents the strength gained through our faith, God and our Country founded as one nation, under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.
The chair is empty - they are not here.
Colonel Schemine encouraged all in attendance to honor our fallen soldiers on a daily basis by these simple means. “Live free, dare to dream and follow your dream, express your opinion without fear, exercise your rights, cherish them and defend them. Live for what they died for!”