FORT SILL Okla_Over one million American troops have stood in harm's way, giving their lives so we can live ours freely. On this Memorial Day, Fort Sill took the time not only to honor them, but pay respects to others who have served or are still serving this great country.
Over 200 people gathered on post for the playing of taps, the delivering of wreaths, and the honoring of America's bravest.
At Monday afternoon's ceremony, Colten Kennedy, an ROTC cadet at Cameron University spoke. He said he does not come from a military background, but he doesn't lack knowledge about the true meaning behind Monday's special holiday either. Unfortunately, he said that isn't the case for so many others in his same generation.
It marks the beginning of summer, but speakers Monday at Fort Sill's Memorial Day program were quick to remind those in attendance picnicking and barbecuing aren't what this holiday's about.
"I think it's difficult to have a relationship with Memorial Day if you don't have that personal connection with it," Kennedy said.
He said he comes from a line of dairy farmers. He said his personal connection to Memorial Day didn't come until recently, when two lieutenants who came from the same ROTC program he is in were killed in action.
"Seeing their faces, knowing they're from my school, seeing their young families left behind really brings it home," Kennedy said.
The feeling was further solidified as he became a part of Monday's ceremony, giving a speech and delivering the Wreath of Remembrance with Post Commander Major General Mark McDonald and retired Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Orr.
"It's an important day that we stop and recognize those people who have paid the ultimate sacrifice," Orr said.
The holiday is not meant to honor only these service members, but also the ones they've left behind. Katharine Dickey is spending her first Memorial Day without her husband Michael, who served in Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Michael was badly wounded in Iraq and died of complications just last November.
"Without these guys, you wouldn't have your beautiful summer and your picnics. You wouldn't have that freedom to enjoy," Dickey said.
81-year-old Joy Lofton couldn't agree more. She lost her husband Charlie 27 years ago. He died of bone cancer brought on by Agent Orange, a chemical used in Vietnam. She visits his grave at least once every two weeks.
"I talk to him and bring flowers," Lofton said. "I tell him what's going on with his great grandbabies that he didn't get a chance to see and just visit with him."
She said it's something she and countless others can't do in person anymore, because their loved ones paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Lofton said she used to get frustrated that her husband's death was service connected, but now she said she is just full of pride. It's a pride she said she had a hard time putting into words.
The Memorial Day ceremony on post wasn't the only one in which service men and women were honored Monday. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 751 held a program at Fort Sill's National Cemetery in Elgin Monday morning.