The clear blue skies and the cool, gentle breeze yesterday were the perfect foil to the heartfelt speeches given at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi.
Organized by the CNMI Military/Veterans Affairs Office, the occasion was graced not only by the families of veterans who have passed on, but also by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Joint Region Marianas/U.S. Naval Forces Marianas commander.
According to Torres, he had the opportunity to join the Matua Riders and Young Gunz’s Freedom Ride last Saturday and it was that ride that made him reflect upon the freedom every U.S. citizen has, thanks to the sacrifices made by fallen heroes.
“We have the opportunity to experience what other countries don’t and that is our freedom, the freedom that none of us should ever take for granted. This morning we are here to honor that and appreciate all the sacrifices,” he said.
Chatfield, as keynote speaker, made the event special by choosing to participate in the CNMI’s Memorial Day commemoration ceremony this year. “I am honored and humbled to be here with you today as we recognize the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform around the world,” she said.
Chatfield said the purpose of a Memorial Day ceremony is to gather together and honor the men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion and as a result could not enjoy the freedom they fought for—the freedom America continues to enjoy.
“While we cannot gaze up at their smiles, we cannot shake their hands or share with them the warm embrace, we can still feel their presence here, especially today…They have inspired countless men and women to raise their hands in service, all answering the call of duty for the land they call home and the values that we all share,” she said.
Chatfield also recognized fallen heroes like the late Corporal Derence W. Jack and the late Staff Sgt. Wilgene T. Lieto and their loved ones for their sacrifices.
“To the Jack and Lieto family and all the families who have lost their loved ones, and to our heroes, thank you. It is because of your continued courage and strength…that allows us to be here today and count our blessings. We have the utmost respect for you,” she said.
“Please know that we hold each of you and your fallen heroes in our hearts and you and your loved ones are forever in our prayers. Their blood was not shed in vain; their examples stand as a beckon to our fellow countrymen and women that the ideals we hold dear are worth defending,” she added.
Whether they were deployed overseas or served the nation from home, Chatfield said it is to these honorable men and women that America owes their gratitude for its freedom and its way of life.
“The men and women we recognize today gave their time, they gave their sweat, they gave their tears, and when they had nothing left to give, they gave their very lives…it is and will forever remain our duty…to preserve their memory,” she said.
Dignitaries also laid a wreath by the Veterans Cemetery memorial and the Department of Public Safety also did a 21-gun salute.