Honoring the Fallen05/27/2016
On March 3, 1945, Arkansan Jack Williams was on the island of Iwo Jima with the 3rd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment. Upon seeing a fellow marine wounded by a grenade on the frontlines of battle, Williams braved enemy fire and ran to assist the wounded marine, shielding the man with his body while dressing his wounds. As he assisted the soldier, Williams was shot four times. He paid no attention to his own injuries, but instead finished helping the man and rushed to the aid of another marine in need. It was then that he was shot and killed by an enemy sniper. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and selflessness that day.
On April 25, 1951, Charles Gilliland from Yellville, Arkansas was serving in Korea in the 7th Infantry Regiment. When his company came under attack, they were greatly outnumbered. But Charles Gilliland refused to give up. He held a strong defensive position and fired continuously at the enemy line, even after suffering a severe head injury. Gilliland stayed behind to provide covering fire as the rest of his company retreated. He was never seen again. His family was presented with the Medal of Honor just one month before his 18th birthday.
On March 17, 2010, Hot Springs native Chief Petty Officer Adam Brown and his Special Ops Assault Team were engaged in an enemy fire fight in Komar Province, Afghanistan. The enemy fire pinned down many of Chief Petty Officer Brown’s fellow soldiers until he made the selfless decision to charge the enemy, drawing the fire from his comrades. Chief Petty Officer Brown saved their lives by sacrificing his own that day.
Jack Williams, Charles Gilliland and Adam Brown are just three of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have counted the cost and paid the ultimate price, laying down their lives in service to our country. We say their names and we retell their stories that we may never forget their sacrifice.
It is traditional for soldiers to honor their fallen comrades following combat by paying tribute to them in a final roll call. The Sergeant Major calls the name of each soldier in the unit. When he reaches the name of the fallen soldier, however, the room fills with silence. The Sergeant Major calls the fallen soldier’s name once again. No one responds. Finally, the Sergeant Major calls the fallen soldier’s full name and rank. The first sergeant then steps forward and responds with the soldier’s full name and rank, declaring that the soldier was killed in action.
Acknowledging the absence of the fallen soldier is often a difficult and somber affair, but the soldiers call roll with the conviction and resolve that all unit members will be accounted for and that the fallen soldier will never be forgotten.
In the same way, we resolve to commemorate the fallen—those who have served our country in centuries past, along with those who have fought and died in recent years. We say their names, tell their stories and strive to honor their memory everyday.
This Memorial Day, as is my custom, I will be speaking at the Arkansas Memorial Day Ceremony at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery. However you observe Memorial Day this year, I encourage you to take a moment of silence honoring those who have laid down their lives in service to our country. We owe them a debt we can never fully repay.