The Memorial Day holiday has changed since its beginnings, but the need to remember those who have died in battle continues, according to Victor Gades, who gave the Memorial Day address at the annual program in Morris.
Gades served in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1976. Gades compared the start of his Navy career to "being talked into riding the Enterprise at Valleyfair by a 10 year old. The whole time you tell yourself other normal people ... do this and survive - I can do it."
Despite his fears, Gades had many adventures and "more than one close call," and would not trade those years for anything.
Gades acknowledged those who have lost a loved one in the line of duty, saying no words of condolence can console a survivor. "And while grief from loss may change throughout the years, it never leaves us."
He also stated for some of those who served and survived, the battle may have followed them home. "We lose, at last count, 22 veterans a day to suicide. Weren't they also wounded in battle? They too leave behind parents, spouses and children who have bigger questions - why and what could we have done for them?"
Gades reflected on his own service, and concluded that he and his fellow sailors were "a part of something larger than ourselves."
He called on the rest of us to "ensure that the sacrifices made by our nation's finest and bravest never go unappreciated and that their memories are never forgotten. ... For those who never left the battle fields, we must hold them up in our hometowns and honor their memories. In Morris we provide military honors at graveside. I and several veterans participate. When the final TAPS, the 24-note bugle call, is played, a sadness flows through my body and I say silently 'You can rest easy, now we have the watch.'"