Memorial Day – Freedom isn’t free

Area residents came out Monday, May 27, to show respect and honor for those soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty for the United States of America. Memorial Day services were moved indoors due to wet conditions.

At the Memorial Day Service held in Sabetha, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Allan Feek spoke to the crowd.

“We are gathered to remember those who have lost their lives in military service to this country,” Feek said. “We gather to honor their sense of duty, their commitment to service, and their sacrifice.”

Feek told the crowd that Kansas knows about sacrifice.

“Going back to the First World War, Kansas lost 5,182 service members,” Feek said. “World War II saw Kansas losses of 6,627. Nemaha County alone lost 31 men in that conflict and Brown County had 45 casualties. In the Korean War, Kansas lost 429. And in the Persian Gulf War, Kansas lost five service members.”

Sabetha knows about sacrifice, Feek said.

“Have you ever heard of Air Force Staff Sergeant Cecil Truman Thompson? He was from Sabetha, born in 1935, and died in 1967 in Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam,” Feek said.

Fairview knows about sacrifice, Feek said.

“Born in 1944, a year before World War II ended, Army Sergeant Edward Roy Lukert was from Fairview. He also died in 1967 in Binh Duong Province in South Vietnam,” Feek said.

“Thompson and Lukert – their names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. These two men gave the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can live where freedom is not only sought, but demanded,” Feek said.

“Yes, numbers and statistics are important. But names are what tell us the stories – the stories of the individuals who lived and died for their country. I never personally knew the families of Sergeant Thompson or Sergeant Lukert, but I guarantee you that each family had a treasured, almost sacred store of memories of their loved one,” Feek said.

Feek also remarked that this year on June 6, the nation will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, France.

“D-Day, also known as Operation Overlord, resulted in at least 4,413 casualties on a first day of battle,” Feek said.

Feek told the crowd that they can do much in giving support to veterans — from giving a ride to an elderly veteran to simply talking and asking them to share their story.

“Show them that you genuinely care about the selfless sacrifices that they have made and that their families have made,” Feek said.

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Memorial Day Speech by Lieutenant Colonel Allan Feek

“Good morning! I think most of you know me, but for those of you who don’t, my name is Allan Feek, and I grew up right here in Sabetha. Patty kindly invited me to say a few words today, and I must say that it’s a real honor to speak with you all so close to home. I serve in the Air Force and am currently stationed down in Fort Riley. It’s a treat to be stationed relatively near my hometown. Like many of you, my family has loved ones here at Sabetha Cemetery – people we’ve known, loved, and remembered. As you know, today is a special day of remembrance. On this Memorial Day of 2019, we are gathered to remember those who have lost their lives in military service to this country. We gather to honor their sense of duty, their commitment to service, and their sacrifice.

Kansas knows about sacrifice. Looking back at the 20th century, men and women from Kansas have served their country with honor and distinction. Going back to the First World War, Kansas lost 5,182 service members. World War II saw Kansas losses of 6,627. Nemaha County alone lost 31 men in that conflict and Brown County had 45 casualties. In the Korean War, Kansas lost 429. And in the Persian Gulf War, Kansas lost 5 service members.

This year, as we honor our veterans on Memorial Day, we are also reminded that June 6, 2019, will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, France. D-Day, also known as Operation Overlord, resulted in at least 4,413 casualties on a first day of battle. The entire operation had over 37,000 allied casualties. The Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Somme in WWI, the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in the Korean War, the Battle of Khe Sanh in the Vietnam War: these were some of the largest, deadliest battles of each of those wars.

I could go on listing hundreds of days and battles, but Memorial Day isn’t about a day or a battle. It is not about any individual war. It is about honoring those who have paid the ultimate price defending this nation.

Numbers tell part of the story. But as you know, they don’t tell the whole story – far from it, in fact.

Sabetha knows about sacrifice. Have you ever heard of Air Force Staff Sergeant Cecil Truman Thompson? He was from Sabetha, born in 1935, and died in 1967 in Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam.

Fairview knows about sacrifice. Born in 1944, a year before World War II ended, Army Sergeant Edward Roy Lukert was from Fairview. He also died in 1967 in Binh Duong Province in South Vietnam.

Thompson and Lukert – their names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  These two men gave the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can live where freedom is not only sought, but demanded. There are many more names from Vietnam alone that I could recite – young men from Atchison, Holton, Wathena. All these communities are represented on the Vietnam Wall, all remembered as part of the 735 Kansans who were killed in action in Vietnam.

Yes, numbers and statistics are important. But names are what tell us the stories – the stories of the individuals who lived and died for their country. I never personally knew the families of Sergeant Thompson or Sergeant Lukert, but I guarantee you that each family had a treasured, almost sacred store of memories of their loved one. These are just two of the many stories being told today in communities like this across this nation. And as long as friends and relatives of Thompson, Lukert, and the other 733 Kansas Vietnam casualties love and remember, that is 735 stories that have no end.

   As a community, we may not know the individual stories of fallen soldiers, airmen, sailors, or Marines. However, I do know this: it is our duty to honor those stories. We do that in a formal sense on Memorial Day, coming together like this in remembrance. It is imperative that we honor their lives and their sacrifices – and that we do so as long as this Republic endures. To be sure, we do this on Memorial Day. Every year on this day, all across the nation, people come together to honor the memories of those who fell – not just in Vietnam, but in all conflicts, from Germany to Grenada to Afghanistan.

However, honoring the fallen is something we can do in an informal sense as well, and it can be done right in our own backyards. It’s almost a cliché to say it, and many VFW leaders have said it far more eloquently than I can, but the fact is that a wonderful way to honor the dead is to support the living. And “support” extends beyond putting a ribbon on your car. It means that when you have the option, that you choose to purchase goods and services from veteran-owned businesses. It means helping to raise awareness about summer camps and scholarships that directly help military kids. It means offering your elderly neighbor a ride to their appointment at the VA hospital. Actions such as these may seem small. Frankly, they may not seem like much at all. But at the end of the day, these actions do honor military sacrifice. They directly support the lives and aspirations of the living, and in so doing, honor the sacrifices of the dead.

Would you like to know something else that we all can do? Talk. Talk to a veteran and get to know their story. Because there is a generational shift happening, and veterans are departing this earth at alarming rates. My wife, Alita, has taught a few college classes, and she used to survey her students at the start of each term. One question on the survey asked if you had a grandparent who served in World War II. You see, Alita and I were born in the 70s, and for us and our peers, 99 percent of us had at least one grandparent who fought in World War II. Those surveys she handed out in class? Hardly anyone had grandparents who had served in World War II, while there were usually a handful who had a grandpa who’d served in Vietnam. My point is this: veterans are dying, and they are taking their stories with them. Those firsthand accounts of France and North Africa and Guadalcanal are laid to rest every single day, forever silenced beneath the notes of “Taps.” And Vietnam-era veterans – well, they aren’t getting any younger either. So if you’re lucky enough to be related to a veteran or simply know one, talk with them. If you haven’t already, take the time to find out their stories. Tell them that you’re interested – and then truly be interested. I have a feeling most of you here already are, so if you can encourage any young people in your life to do this, that would be truly meaningful.

Thinking of these conflicts in decades past, there are two more things I would add: if you know someone who served in the Korean War, or if you know a woman who served in a conflict that we would consider historical (World War II through Vietnam), then by all means, please let them know that you want to hear their story. Korea is often termed “the forgotten war,” but it doesn’t have to be. And many women served as domestic civilian pilots during World War II and as nurses in all conflicts, but their service tends to be overshadowed.

We live in a different age now. Today, soldiers who are wounded in action have a far greater chance of surviving than previous generations. Our military has the most nimble, advanced trauma medical capability on the globe, and wounded soldiers are generally able to get to major hospitals in less than 24 hours. In 2011, 415 American men and women died in Afghanistan, while 5,159 were wounded and survived. That is 12.4 survivors for every fatality. Survival rates like this would have been simply unthinkable in previous generations.

Immediate medical care is one thing. But when wounded veterans come home, it doesn’t end there. They need and deserve our respect, admiration, and support. The best way to do that is to talk to them. Ask if they are willing to tell you their stories. Show them that you genuinely care about the selfless sacrifices that they have made and that their families have made.

When this great American experiment began in 1776, no one knew how it would go. No one could see the future. As with any experiment, we’ve surely had bumps along the way, but we continue to work towards fulfillment of all the values and principles that we hold dear. And absolutely none of that work – from 1776 to now – would have been or is possible without the American military veteran. Yes, we are indeed privileged to live here in the United States and to gather here in Sabetha and Woodlawn on this beautiful Memorial Day. Thank you very much for coming out to honor our veterans today, and as you depart, please remember to thank the veterans and the families of veterans that are part of your life today and every day.”

The Sabetha Herald1789 Posts

The Sabetha Herald has been serving Sabetha since 1876.

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